Julie Andersen

My sister, Julie Andersen, 44, died in the early hours of September 2, 2001, nine days before 9/11, in Adams County, Colorado, while in the custody of the Adams County Sheriff's Department, who, for the sake of simplicity, I will refer to as "the police."  There had been several calls to 911 by people in the neighborhood, who awakened before 5 a.m. to the screams of a woman yelling for help.  That woman turned out to be my sister.

           

About the same time, a security guard patrolling this rough area of town, saw my sister, naked and running, and called in a report.  He assumed she had been sexually assaulted.  She ran to his car and pounded on it, and he started laughing.  When he got out of the car she ran from him, screaming, "You are not a cop!  Stay away!"  She, then, started shouting to other motorists for help.  The implication -- she was afraid of cop-impersonators.

 

At 5 a.m., six cars were dispatched to a scene of "a possible sexual assault," along with three members of the fire department. Terrified by the imposing figures surrounding her, Julie became combative.  Within eight minutes of their arrival, instead of trying to calm her, perhaps by covering her nudity with a blanket, Deputy Lombardi sprayed her repeatedly in the face with pepper spray.  That made the situation worse physically and psychologically. Other officers then leapt upon her, forcing her, spread-eagle, facedown on the asphalt and cuffed her hands behind her back.  It was as if she was an accordion but without air.  When paramedics arrived, the pepper spray was so intense that they were unable to see to get a tube down her throat so she could breathe.  Hospital personnel, who knew the ER team, told us the team reported that she was covered with so much pepper spray that they could not work properly to revive her.

 

In an interview in the Denver Post, police stated that Julie was conscious and struggling when placed in an ambulance at around 6 a.m.  That is in direct conflict with reports by the paramedics that Julie was unconscious when they placed her in the ambulance at 5:34 a.m.  At 5:58 a.m., she was pronounced dead at the hospital.

 

Reports term Julie's death "an unattended death," despite the fact that there were at least eleven responders with her when she went flaccid on the highway, and hospital staff was present when she was pronounced dead. The term "unattended" is generally applied to bodies left dead for more than a day before they're discovered.

 

The coroner's conclusion, based upon a high level of methamphetamine in Julie's body, was that she died of a heart attack.  From research, I have reason to question that conclusion.  The autopsy report contains so many errors that I, and a woman doctor who has been trying to help me, cannot count on anything it says. When I showed the autopsy report to my physician, she was stunned.  Her opinion was that Julie did not die of a heart attack. Drugs obviously were a contributing factor to her death, but so were terror turned into delirium, being wrestled to the ground by men twice her size, and not being able to breathe.  In this doctor's opinion, congested fluid in her lungs and kidneys indicated that her death was caused by the pepper spray and positional asphyxia, subsequently leading to suffocation.  Contusions all over her body, including vertical scratches on her backside and breasts, document the brutality of her treatment.  A friend who worked at the hospital told us she "looked like road kill."

 

Other autopsy inaccuracies give Julie's height as 5'7".  She was actually 5'2".  The amount of methamphetamine reported in her system was astronomical, although the condition of her body, particularly her teeth and organs, were not those of a habitual meth user.  She would have had to have been a long-term meth user to tolerate the levels reported. My sister had a problem with cocaine several years earlier, but not meth.  This causes us to wonder how so much of that drug got into her system on that particular night.  Is it possible that the autopsy report was as wrong about that fact as it was about her height? Was the coroner being used to cover up for the police? In addition, the autopsy report states that her corneas were clear.  How could that be possible when she was so covered with pepper spray that the medics could not see to intubate her?

 

Although Julie gave police her first name, the name of her stepfather, and the name she was born under, she was classified in initial reports as "Jane Doe." That was the reason our family was given for not being informed about her death until 12 hours later.  We were not allowed to see her or identify her body due to a “criminal investigation.” Yet no such investigation is documented.  Julie was also classified as an organ donor.  For hospital personnel to have known that, they must have been told her identity, so how could she have been a "Jane Doe"?

 

In Colorado, the Barela law makes law enforcement officials immune from liability for any actions based on split-second judgments in dangerous situations.  It is up to the officers themselves to define the term "dangerous."  In this case, six officers determined that a small, naked, unarmed woman was a danger, and, therefore, were legally protected from responsibility for any injuries they inflicted on her.  When they learned that the paramedics had complained about the pepper spray, they made sure that the ambulance was cleaned and the seat belts sanitized by midmorning so no pepper spray traces could be found.  No forensic tests were conducted on Julie's body for semen or for pepper spray contamination. No administrative leave was given to any of the officers pending the investigation.  By 6 a.m. the motel room already had been cleaned, (even though it was a “Criminal Investigation”?)  Deputy Lombardi, who pepper sprayed Julie, was assigned to photograph the scene and therefore controlled what was and was not on record.

 

The reason for all of the above is not hard to imagine in light of other such incidents in Adams County.  The Boys in Blue apparently got carried away by their testosterone.   They became more violent than they should have and -- with the aid of Internal Affairs -- covered up for each other.

 

However, a second question is more difficult to answer:  Why did police have little to no interest in the circumstances that led to a naked woman racing down the highway, screaming for help, at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning?

 

For seven and a half months, Julie had been dating Dan Williams, whom she met shortly after he was placed on parole after serving time for drug dealing.  To understand my sister's infatuation with Dan, it is necessary to know about her background. At age 10, Julie was diagnosed with severe scoliosis, requiring major surgeries to her back and hip.  For a year she was in a plaster cast from the bottom of her mouth to the end of her torso.  Then she had to wear braces on her teeth for five years, because the cast had changed the shape of her jaw.  At age 17, when she was starting to feel less "freakish," our alcoholic father committed suicide, and Julie was the one who found his body.  She was left so emotionally scarred and fragile by so many traumas that her only dream in life was to find love and commitment.  She thought she had found that with Dan.  He absorbed her life so completely that she dropped most of her old friends and began hanging out almost totally with Dan and his associates, who unfortunately were involved in heavy drug use. A week before her death, Julie had lunch with our mother and seemed very depressed.  She said she thought Dan was having an affair with another woman.

 

On the evening of September 1, Dan and Julie had plans to go to a concert, but were unable to get tickets.  According to Dan, when interviewed by police two days after Julie's death, (the cops referred to him as "Danny," as though they were intimate friends), they decided to go for a romantic get away, if checking into the Notel Motel in a rundown area of town can be termed "romantic."  According to Dan, they watched movies and took a Jacuzzi.  He said it was just the two of them with no drugs, only beer and wine, although the number of cans and bottles, including a Vodka bottle, found in that motel room indicated far more liquor than two people could have consumed.  Dan checked into Rm. 10 at 10:30 p.m.  He was driving a Honda CRX, which did not belong to either him or Julie.

 

Dan went on to say that, at about 2:30, Julie suddenly insisted that somebody was trying to signal him from outside the motel window.  He told her it was her imagination. He said he went into the bathroom and while he was in there, Julie started searching his backpack and demanding to know if he had been deputized.  He, then, heard a crash, as if someone was trying to kick in the motel door.  Julie started to scream, "Help!" When he tried to quiet her, she scratched him and broke his glasses.  By 4:30 a.m., he had had enough of her histrionics and left the motel to go to a friend's house.  Julie followed him into the parking lot, half dressed, and refused to get into the car with him, so he drove off and left her there. The police never questioned that story.  Facts, as we later discovered, indicate a very different scenario.

 

Apparently, theirs was not a two-person get-away.  Dan's friends appear to have rented rooms also, and some type of orgy took place in Rm. 10.  At least five cars were reported coming and going throughout the evening.  Then things apparently got out of hand, because the occupants of those other rooms hurriedly checked out.  Dan must have gone into a rage and turned on Julie, because people in other units heard her screaming, “Why are you doing this to me?”, and "I want to go home!"  A bloody condom found on the bed the next morning suggested that she had been sodomized.  A tenant in Rm. 9 went down to the office twice to report the commotion to the manager, who told him to mind his own business.  When that man returned to his room for the second time, he saw Dan leaving in a silver and green Ford Escort, which was not the car he arrived in.  The police never made any attempt to identify that car or other cars described in the reports.  Julie was in the parking lot, cursing Dan, wearing shorts and no top.  The following day, Julie's jeans and underpants were found in a ditch just north of the motel.  How did they get there if she was wearing only shorts?  Were they planted to make it appear that she was attacked outside by some stranger instead of in the motel room?  Allegedly a rape kit test was done, but the family has not been allowed to know the results.  Something must have occurred after Dan left the motel to send Julie running out into the night, nude and hysterical, screaming for help.  Why did police have no interest in following up on that?

 

The one possibility I have been able to come up with, which is speculation only, is that Dan's early release on parole might have been contingent upon his becoming a snitch, and the party at the Notel Motel was a set up for a drug bust.  If that were the case, then Julie's hysterical outbursts -- perhaps triggered by jealousy over Dan's "other woman" -- may have broken the party up earlier than anticipated.  Were the shadowy figures Julie saw outside the motel window actually narcs?  Is that why she searched Dan's backpack for evidence that he was "deputized"?  When Dan fled the scene, did he leave her at the mercy of those people?  Did they anally rape her and then inject her with methamphetamine to give others the impression she was delusional?  (When interviewed, Dan insisted they brought no drugs to the motel.)  Or is there another explanation?

 

Dan attended the funeral in the company of his new girlfriend, and the two left the county soon after that.  There is no way we will ever get answers to our questions.  The statute of limitations for a civil suit has passed, and we could find no attorney to represent us because of the Barela law.  It was also 9/11 and, at that time, all police were considered heroes.  The best I can do is share Julie's story with the public.  I want pepper spray banned from this country.  It is considered a toxic substance and lethal if not used appropriately, whether by lay people or law enforcement.

 

There must be more accountability from police departments.  But how can we ordinary citizens cause that to happen when the powerful bureaucracy of law enforcement ties our hands?'

 

 

Cynthia Andersen (Julie's sister)