The bystander who was paralyzed in the shootout that also killed El Paso County Deputy Micah Flick on February 5, 2018, is suing El Paso County, the city of Colorado Springs, and the agencies, officers, and deputies involved.
The 30-page civil action complaint, filed Friday by the attorneys of Thomas Villanueva, claims officers and deputies in plainclothes did not announce themselves, failed to secure the area, and knowingly allowed him to walk into the scene towards the armed suspect that deadly afternoon.
On February 5, 2018, the Beat Auto Theft Through Law Enforcement – or BATTLE – team followed carjacking suspect and known gang member Manuel Zetina to Murray Hill Apartments, near Galley Road and Murray Boulevard.
Deputies Micah Flick and Scott Stone were given the go-ahead by the sergeant in charge to take Zetina down in a bear hug, despite signs that he was armed.
Meanwhile, Thomas Villanueva was walking to his apartment towards Zetina and right into the area where the takedown was happening.
That’s when Zetina pulled out a gun and began firing, leaving Flick dead and three other officers hurt. Villanueva also took one of Zetina’s bullets to the back, permanently paralyzing him.
Zetina was shot by another deputy and died on scene.
The lawsuit claims multiple members of BATTLE “watched Villanueva walk through the operational perimeter and kept him in the operational perimeter without stopping him or warning him of the takedown.”
The complaint argues that officers never announced themselves, witnesses did not realize the BATTLE team were members of law enforcement, and residents “believed that a gang fight was happening in the parking lot.”
The suit also claims a lack of training by the BATTLE team, saying agencies “did not provide training on securing the area of an anticipated takedown, recognizing gang signs, or safe practices in apprehending a suspect.”
Those named in the lawsuit include El Paso County, the city of Colorado Springs, Sheriff Bill Elder, the estate of Deputy Micah Flick, Deputy Scott Stone, Sergeant Jacob Abendschan, Detective John Watts, Detective Stephanie Criss, Detective Michael Boggs, Chief Peter Carey, Sergeant Kevin Miyakusu, Officer Marcus Yanez, Investigator John Reindollar, and Sergeant Chad Hunt.
Villanueva’s attorneys say officers made multiple mistakes, “depriving him of his constitutional rights” and arguing they are liable for Zetina shooting Villanueva and leaving him paralyzed.
Compensation is not specified, but the complaint says Villanueva is no longer able to work and will need home health care for the rest of his life, going on to say Villanueva has even contemplated suicide.
Both CSPD and the Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the pending litigation.