A Denver Hells Angels Motorcycle Club member who was arrested as part of a sweeping law enforcement action in 2019 filed a federal lawsuit last week over injuries he suffered when police executed the no-knock warrant at his Golden home.
A Jefferson County sheriff’s SWAT deputy shot Dustin “Dusty” Ullerich, 49, with a projectile that was meant to break the lock on his front door, according to a 2020 letter published by then-First Judicial District Attorney Peter Weir when he cleared the officer of wrongdoing.
Ullerich, who suffered serious injuries, claims in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court of Colorado on Wednesday that police should not have executed the warrant as an unannounced, “no-knock” operation, but rather by “simply walking up to the front door, knocking or ringing the doorbell.”
“Defendants adopted this extremely violent, unnecessary and dangerous tactical plan to damage plaintiff’s home and harass him,” the lawsuit reads. Ullerich has twice before successfully sued Denver police and other law enforcement over their treatment of him.
The tattoo shop owner was one of 14 men targeted in the Nov. 7, 2019, operation against the local Hells Angels club, which authorities consider to be an outlaw motorcycle gang. All over the Denver region at 4 a.m. that day, police officers used flash-bang grenades and door-blasting projectiles to execute 19 search warrants, seizing methamphetamine, cocaine, cash and firearms during the arrests.
The raids came after a five-month investigation into the motorcycle club that began when a former member agreed to cooperate with police and reveal the inner workings of the alleged criminal operation.
At Ullerich’s home, the SWAT team set off flash-bangs and shattered Ullerich’s windows as they approached, according to Weir’s letter. A team of officers tried to break in the front door with a battering ram — one officer shouted, “Sheriff’s office, search warrant, come to the door!” — but the door didn’t budge.
Jefferson County sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Brown then pulled out a short-barreled shotgun with special ammunition designed to break locks. As he pulled the trigger, however, Ullerich came to the door and opened it.
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The blast hit Ullerich in the side, gouging a baseball-sized hole in his abdomen. His intestines bulged out through the hole, according to Weir’s letter. Ullerich was hospitalized, put into a coma and nearly died, according to the lawsuit he filed against Jefferson County, the cities of Golden, Aurora and Arvada, and 16 individual officers at the four departments.
Representatives for the three cities and the county did not immediately return requests for comment Monday or declined to comment. Ullerich’s attorney, Paul Fisher, did not return a request for comment.