Judge rules against CSPD officers

Federal case was filed by survivors of man who died after multiple tasings
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Senior U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello has ruled against the city of Colorado Springs and two police officers in a case in which survivors of a man who died after being tased at least eight times in 90 seconds allege excessive use of force.

Arguello’s 33-page ruling came on March 8 in response to the city’s and two officers’ motions for summary judgment.

The estate of Jeffrey Melvin filed suit in 2020 following Melvin’s May 2, 2018, death that the El Paso County Coroner’s Office ruled was a homicide and that he “died as a result of complications of sickle cell trait and extreme exertion during confrontation with police and associated Taser deployment.” Blood tests showed he tested negative for all illicit substances.

The stems from an April 26, 2018, incident to which Officers Daniel Patterson and Joshua Archer responded to a disturbance at an apartment building that had already ended. After officers interfaced with people in an apartment, Melvin showed up and ran into the apartment and slammed the door. Within seconds, he opened the door for Patterson who immediately tried to grab Melvin and told him to put his hands behind his back. Both officers acknowledged that Melvin “never attempted to hit, kick, bit or spit at the officers; and he never threatened anyone.”

Despite that, Patterson and Archer tased Melvin eight times within 90 seconds. Melvin, 27, died at a hospital.

“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 judge wrote, “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 by the totality of the circumstances based upon the undisputed facts. A reasonable jury could determine that the Officers’ repeated Taser deployments in such quick succession against a resisting but non-violent arrestee were violative of Mr. Melvin’s rights under the Fourth Amendment.

“A reasonable jury,” she added, “could also find that the Officers unreasonably and immediately escalated the situation at several critical junctures, thus creating the need to use force and causing Mr. Melvin to instinctively attempt to flee from repeated Taser shocks…. In sum, the Court concludes that a reasonable officer would have understood that deploying a Taser 8 times in approximately 90 seconds at Mr. Melvin, under the circumstances of this case, was violative of the Fourth Amendment. Individual Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity, and the Court denies their Motion for Summary Judgment.”

"A reasonable jury could also find that the Officers unreasonably and immediately escalated the situation at several critical junctures.... "

—Senior U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello

The judge also ruled against the city on the claim the city failed to adequately train the officers.

The city cited the officers’ supervisors, former Police Chief Pete Carey and current Chief Adrian Vasquez, who said that officers may repeatedly deploy their tasers if the officers determine that each taser use is independently justified after assessing the situation. Both Carey and Vasquez concluded that the eight deployments used in this case were within policy and that the officers’ conduct was reasonable.

But the plaintiff argued otherwise, leading the judge to rule there are genuine disputes of material fact, which precludes a summary judgment in the city’s favor.

Even worse for the city, Judge Arguello found, “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.”

The ruling notes that neither officer was disciplined following the incident and that training on tasers did not change because of it.

The city has settled multiple cases in recent years regarding excessive use of force, the most notable one a $2.9 million payout to the family of De’Von Bailey, 19, who was shot and killed by officers in 2019 as he ran from them after being stopped during a robbery investigation.

A city spokesperson says the city typically doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Read Judge Arguello’s ruling:


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