UPDATE: City Council today, March 28, approved a settlement in the Jason Shelton case of $175,000. His attorney declined to comment when asked about the agreement.
The city is poised to pay out more than $100,000 to settle an excessive use of force lawsuit against the Colorado Springs Police Department involving a man, Jason Shelton, who was brutally attacked by a police K-9 dog. Shelton turned out to be an innocent bystander riding his bicycle; he was mistaken by an officer for a burglar, though another officer yelled that Shelton was not the suspect.
An agenda item states, “The City Attorney has negotiated a litigation settlement in excess of $100,000.00 that is contingent upon City Council approval of the settlement amount. The case alleges claims for excessive force by a police officer.”
If approved by City Council tomorrow, March 28, it would be the 13th settlement paid since DeVon Bailey was shot and killed by CSPD officers in the Southeast in August 2019. That case ended in a $2.975 million payout to his survivors in January 2022.
The Bailey payment was believed to be the largest such settlement in the city’s history, and it’s one of the largest settlements involving police actions in the state. (The size of the settlement, the city said in a release at the time, stems from pressure from the city’s insurance carrier, which noted that any amount over $2.97 million would have to be funded by taxpayers.)
In the last two years alone, the city has spent $4 million on settlements and legal fees associated with lawsuits filed against the department.
Shelton filed suit in September 2022 against the CSPD on his own behalf, writing by hand, “3 officers pursuing another suspect let a k-9 loose. k-9 attacked me a bystander, dragged me into traffic then I was run over by a car and then arrested after a blackout I’d imagine in which I ended up in the emergency room. Then the officers unknown covered up the crime they committed.”
In October 2022, a Denver law firm, Frank Law Office, filed an amended complaint on Shelton’s behalf.
“On the night of June 20, 2021, Jason Shelton was riding his bike in Colorado Springs. He had committed no crime. He was an innocent bystander,” the lawsuit says. He was riding on Galley Road near Auburn Drive and had stopped to re-engage the bike chain on his bike.
Officer Alan Radke ordered his K-9 Ozzie to attack Shelton, without warning, not even asking Shelton to stop first, according to allegations contained in the lawsuit. The officer then approached Shelton, who had been knocked off his bicycle by the dog, and “let Ozzie continue to bite Mr. Shelton for almost a full minute while he and two other officers who arrived in the middle of the incident put Mr. Shelton into handcuffs,” the lawsuit says.
The officers allegedly did nothing to move Shelton from the street, allowing a passing car to run over his legs, the lawsuit states.
Radke had been looking for a burglary suspect, but Shelton didn’t look like the suspect and wasn’t wearing clothing similar to those of the suspect; also, one of the officers yelled to Radke that Shelton was not the suspect, the suit says.
“Defendant Radke’s actions represent just one more entry in a long history of brutality committed by Colorado Springs K-9 officers,” the lawsuit states. “Colorado Springs K-9 officers engage in brutality because it is what Colorado Springs has trained them to do. Colorado Springs has enacted and trains its K-9 officers to follow an unconstitutional K-9 deployment policy. The inevitable result of Colorado Springs’s unconstitutional policy and training is that its K-9 officers use their K-9s to attack people when the amount of force entailed by a K-9 bite is unwarranted.”
Despite another officer telling Radke the actual suspect had disappeared into some bushes across Galley Road, Radke “did not listen” and pursued Shelton, the lawsuit claims, who was gaining ground away from him on his bicycle, simply continuing on his way. Without any warning or an order to stop, Radke allegedly ordered the dog to attack, the lawsuit says.
“Under CSPD policy, before any deployment of a K-9 to apprehend a person, the handler must first identify himself as a CSPD officer, ask the subject to surrender, and inform the subject that if he does not surrender, the K-9 will bite him,” the lawsuit says.
Officers then allegedly laughed about the incident, which is shown in this video.
“Defendant Radke knew he had made a terrible mistake,” the lawsuit alleges. “However, rather than take responsibility for it, he blamed Mr. Shelton. Without any legal basis, Defendant Radke doubled down on his unthinkable excessive force, having Mr. Shelton arrested and initiating unwarranted charges against him for Obstructing a Peace Officer.”
Yet, Radke was only “verbally counseled” to remember to give K-9 warnings prior to deployments, and the deployment was determined by CSPD to be “justified,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit further says the CSPD’s training for K-9 officers is unconstitutional because it allows deployment of dogs if a suspect merely “tenses up” and then allows the dog to continue attacking until the suspect is in handcuffs, even if the suspect isn’t resisting.
Two prior K-9 instances resulted in no discipline. On March 23, 2021, a police dog was allegedly ordered to attack Christopher Correll who spent weeks in the hospital and “never regained full function in his leg,” according to Shelton’s lawsuit. The city paid out $190,000 in that case. On June 17, 2021, a suspect was hiding in a crawl space and couldn’t flee, but a K-9 was allegedly deployed and “viciously bit the suspect’s arm, inflicting serious damage,” the lawsuit says. The department determined the deployment complied with CSPD K-9 deployment policy.
The CSPD declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
March 2021: $43,500 to Kelvin Tivis.
July 2021: $37,500 to Michael Sexton.
August 2021: $65,000 to Corey Barnes.
October 2021: $10,000 to David Adkins.
January 2022: $175,000 to Celia Palmer.
January 2022: $2,795,000 to estate of DeVon Bailey.
April 2022: $30,000 to Michael Sexton.
May 2022: $190,000 to Christopher Correll.
June 2022: $100,000 to Juniper McGinn.
September 2022: $140,000 to Tara Hadam.
October 2022: $10,384 to Ean C. Meadows.
December 2022: Returned property seized pursuant to a search warrant from Brian Halik.
February 2023: $65,000 to Jesse Steven Escobar.
In addition, the spent $184,720 in taxpayer money on outside counsel to defend the CSPD against four lawsuits from 2019 through late March 2023.
Those cases and the legal fees total $3,846,104.