(COLORADO SPRINGS) — A federal judge ruled against two Colorado Springs Police officers who were involved in tasing a man eight times in 90 seconds which ultimately led to his death.
Senior U.S. District Judge, Christine Arguello, issued a ruling on March 8, denying the City’s motion for summary judgment.
The judge said the two officers, violated the Fourth Amendment rights of Jeffrey Melvin, the man who died after he was repeatedly tased. In the same ruling Arguello said the City of Colorado Springs failed to adequately train its officers.
The El Paso County Coroner’s Office ruled the manner of Melvin’s death on May 2, 2018, a homicide. Its final diagnosis attributed his death to, “complications of sick cell trait and extreme exertion during confrontation with police and associated taser deployment.”
The incident happened on April 26, when Melvin arrived at a friend’s apartment on East Fountain Boulevard to find Officers Daniel Paterson and Joshua Archer. They were already there responding to a noise complaint.
Melvin then ran into the apartment and slammed the door on Officer Paterson. When Paterson re-entered, he ordered Melvin to put his hands behind his back, which he didn’t immediately do.
“Jeffrey Melvin, a young African-American man who lives in Colorado Springs, found himself at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Darold Killmer, a partner at Killmer Lane & Newman LLP, and the lead attorney representing the family of Jeffrey Melvin.
Police body camera footage obtained by FOX21 News shows, this led to a struggle between him and the officers for a little over a minute.
“Then they decided to take out their tasers,” explained Killmer.
According to the ruling, both officers conceded that Melvin, “did not initiate any physical contact; he never attempted to hit, kick, bite, or spit at the Officers; and he never threatened anyone.”
In the span of 90 seconds, Paterson and Archer tased Melvin eight times. In the police body camera footage, Melvin can be heard crying out in pain after almost every deployment, one time crying out that he had asthma.
Due to this tasing, Melvin died at the hospital on May 2, 2018, according to the El Paso County Coroner’s Office autopsy report. He survived off of life support for six days, following the incident.
An excessive force lawsuit was filed by the family of Jeffery Melvin in 2020.
In a 33-page ruling issued last week by Judge Arguello, she ruled that the officers violated Jeff Melvin’s Fourth Amendment rights, stating:
“Even if the detention was lawful and the first Taser deployment was justified by the physical struggle and Mr. Melvin’s resistance to being handcuffed, the Court finds that the repeated Taser deployments over the next 90 seconds — several of which occurred within mere seconds of each other, allowing little time for Mr. Melvin to recover and comply with orders — were not justified… The Court finds that a reasonable jury could conclude that the Officers’ actions in deploying their tasers 8 times in less than two minutes violated Mr. Melvin’s rights under the Fourth Amendment.”Senior U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello
Arguello also ruled against the City on the grounds that its officers were inadequately trained, stating:
“The Court also finds that Plaintiff has sufficiently demonstrated that the inadequate training demonstrates deliberate indifference on the part of the City toward persons with whom the police officers come into contact.”Senior U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello
Following the incident, neither Paterson nor Archer was disciplined, according to the ruling.
“Nobody was fired… They were put right back out on the street, and that goes to show the City of Colorado Springs considers this Law Enforcement 101: go ahead, use a taser repeatedly,” said Killmer.
FOX21 reached out to both CSPD and the City, to which both refused to comment on the litigation and/or the incident.
The ruling notes that both former Police Chief Pete Carey and current Police Chief Adrian Vasquez affirmed that the eight deployments used in this case were within policy and that the officer’s conduct was reasonable. Further, the ruling states that the City considers the training that their officers received in regards to Taser deployment, and in general, has been adequate.
This order to deny the motion for summary judgment means, the next step would be a trial in front of a jury. But, according to Killmer, the City has decided to appeal the order, pushing back a possible trial to at least 2024. The case will now move to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, where three judges will evaluate Judge Arguello’s ruling.
“The City’s decision to appeal is their last-gasp effort to stop a jury from evaluating their conduct,” said Killmer.
Prior to the City’s request for a summary judgment, they also requested a motion to dismiss the case.
Both Officer Paterson and Archer have since left the Colorado Springs Police Department. According to Killmer, neither of them lives in the state anymore.
“The city is left defending these two guys who killed Jeff Melvin, neither of which are on payroll anymore. But, they’re still spending money to defend them,” said Killmer.
Last year alone, the City spent over $3 million dollars settling excessive force lawsuits filed against CSPD. The top settlement at $2.9 million dollars to the family of De’Von Bailey after he was shot in the back by police. The other settlements stemmed from incidents where CSPD officers used excessive force against Black Lives Matter protestors, each of them with payouts of over $100,000.
Although the litigation seems to be dragging on, Killmer says the family of Jeffrey Melvin is seeing this through, no matter what.
“Obviously, they can’t bring back Jeff Melvin… But, the family is looking for accountability and vindication,” said Killmer.
FOX21 News will continue to follow this case as it progresses, and provide updates as information is made available to us.