Mayor Hancock Accuser Suspended Over Faulty Warrant
DENVER (CBS4)- Leslie Branch-Wise, the Denver Police Detective who sparked major controversy when she accused Denver Mayor Michael Hancock of sexual harassment, will be suspended for four days without pay later this month. The reason: authoring a faulty search warrant in 2017 that resulted in police breaking down doors, searching the wrong house and traumatizing an innocent family.
Deputy Director of Safety Jess Vigil wrote in a disciplinary letter that Branch-Wise "made incorrect assumptions which resulted in an egregious home invasion that was clearly avoidable."
In May, a CBS4 Investigation first revealed the problematic search warrant. Det. Branch-Wise was working on a 2017 theft case. The suspect in the case had apparently rented a home in the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood. But the owner of the home told CBS4 that person had moved out of the home years earlier.
Branch-Wise wrote up a search warrant for the home on Odessa Street anyway, getting it signed by a Denver judge and a district attorney.
Branch- Wise got the Odessa Street address from witnesses. She later admitted the suspect's driver's license showed a different address, and she saw a more recent address for the suspect on a database. She ignored both data points since she had received information from witnesses. In her search warrant, she described the home as a "single story home." The house is actually a two-story house.
When Denver police officers executed the warrant, nobody was home so they broke in through the front door. They also broke through locked doors to get into bedrooms looking for the stolen merchandise. They found nothing. In the disciplinary letter, Vigil writes that Branch-Wise "incorrectly assumed" the suspect still lived at the Odessa Street address. Vigil went on to say the Detective "did nothing to verify" that the suspect still lived in the Odessa Street home.
The current renter, Lamond Wedgeworth along with his wife and two children, have lived at the rental home for more than a year. Wedgeworth, a warehouse manager, told CBS4 he rushed home when he heard police were breaking down doors and searching his house.
"It's a terrible feeling. We're part of this community and this neighborhood and it looks bad on us. It's kind of an invasion of privacy and to be treated like a criminal is a terrible feeling."
Wedgeworth said Branch-Wise later stopped by and apologized for the damage and commotion.
"We have no idea why they forced their way in here knowing already they (the suspect) don't live here. It would be nice if they explained why they did what they did."
The owner of the property said Branch-Wise later contacted him and apologized. He said the City of Denver reimbursed him $225 for damage done during the raid.
In the disciplinary letter, which was first obtained by KDVR reporter Rob Low, Vigil wrote that Branch-Wise "did not fulfill her responsibility to properly investigate a case assigned to her… obtained a warrant based on incorrect and unverified information. The recovery of stolen property was delayed by her carelessness. "
Vigil noted the Detective had no significant prior disciplinary history and has received several commendations and awards. "She is considered a hardworking and contributing member of the Department."
Branch-Wise was not widely known outside of the police department until February when she revealed Mayor Hancock sent her suggestive text messages when she served on his security detail in 2011 and 2012. Hancock apologized for the text messages but said he didn't believe what he did amounted to sexual harassment.
Branch-Wise is due to serve her suspension July 29 through August 1.
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