KIOWA COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — A $9.5 million settlement has been reached in the case of an unarmed man shot in the back three times and killed during a Kiowa County traffic stop.
Attorneys for the estate of Zachary Gifford say he was a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped on April 9, 2020 for failure to signal. He was suspected of drug possession “and had an empty baggie in his jeans coin pocket with some residue that did not even constitute a misdemeanor,” wrote attorneys John Holland and Anna Holland Edwards from the Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman law firm.
Gifford, of Eads, was shot and killed as he ran from law enforcement.
“Police cannot shoot people who are running away from them in the back when they aren’t threatening immediate harm to the public or the police,” the attorneys wrote in a news release announcing the settlement. “Police cannot arrest people by shooting them. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation found that Zach Gifford never displayed any weapons and that he was running away when he was killed. He was unarmed.”
A panel of civil rights attorneys determined the settlement after reviewing evidence, including body camera video. They also heard from members of the man’s community through videos and written statements.
What happened in the shooting of Zachary Gifford
The shooting happened in the unincorporated community of Brandon, described by the attorneys as a “ghost town” in the county of around 1,500 people.
Each of the two officers in the incident, Quentin Stump and Tracy Weisenhorn, shot at Gifford twice, according to the attorneys. Stump fired the final shot “after a staggering 18-second delay from the third shot,” the attorneys wrote, and when Gifford was 24 yards away in a large, empty field.
“This is the worst civil rights case our firm has ever handled and also the clearest liability
case we ever had against all the parties named. Zach was a wonderful human being and his
parents were pillars of the community,” the attorneys wrote.
They said Gifford and his family are staples in the Eads community, which rallied for justice in his death.
Through their attorneys, parents Larry and Carla Gifford expressed appreciation to the county commissioners and their attorneys “for reaching this final resolution with them and for
stepping up to create a process to end this lawsuit that was as peaceable, civil and respectful of
the family’s feelings and overwhelming loss as possible.”
In addition to the $9.5 million settlement, the county also agreed to the following:
- The Kiowa County sheriff must update its use-of-force policies as they relate to deadly force, including using such force on suspects fleeing on foot or in moving vehicles.
- New officer and annual training are required for all members of the department on the constitutional limitations on the use of deadly force, specifically regarding fleeing suspects.
- The county will consult with the family and erect a memorial commemorating Gifford’s life.