Town of Basalt defends police officers in lawsuit
BASALT – The town of Basalt has introduced court papers claiming that three of its police officers are immune from a lawsuit that alleges they violated a bar patron’s constitutional rights.
The town’s position, made in response to a Basalt man’s federal suit that claims they arrested him after he yelled at them in a bar during an incident in August 2009, also maintains the officers’ use of force was “reasonable” and that their actions were “conducted in good faith and without intent to injure or deprive [the] plaintiff of his civil rights.”
The response comes after Basalt resident Ian Gray in July sued the town of Basalt and Police Officers Brian Lemke and Michael Taylor, as well as police Sgt. Stewart Curry. Filed in the U.S. District Court in Denver, Gray’s suit alleges that on Aug. 15, 2009, the three officers conducted a “walk-through” at the now-defunct Basalt Bistro, prompting Gray to say, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass,” as the trio left the premises.
Gray’s complaint says the officers left the bar but came back a short time later. Lemke allegedly told Gray he needed to come outside, but Gray refused.
“Officer Lemke then forcefully removed [Gray] from the barstool, dropped him to the barroom floor, repeatedly struck the plaintiff’s arms, brought [his] arms behind his back and handcuffed him,” Gray’s suit says, adding that police violated his constitutional rights by unlawfully arresting him and violating his right to free speech.
Gray’s suit alleges he suffered physical injuries, including tendon, ligament and possibly other damage to his right shoulder; lacerations and bruising to his wrists; bruising to his forearms; and bruising to his right lower jaw. He also said he suffered pain and suffering, fear, anxiety, loss of liberty, embarrassment and humiliation, emotional trauma and psychological harm, “some or all of which may be permanent.”
The town, however, contends Gray was intoxicated at the time and that Lemke had “politely” told him he need to come outside because there was probable cause he had committed disorderly conduct.
“Ian Gray refused to follow the lawful order of Officer Lemke, who then used a reasonable amount of force to remove [him] from the Basalt Bistro,” court documents say.
Three weeks after the incident, the Eagle County District Attorney’s Office charged Gray with two misdemeanors – harassment and obstructing a police officer. The counts were dropped in January.
Additionally, the town says that the three officers are precluded from litigation under Colorado’s Governmental Immunity Act.
A settlement conference is scheduled for Dec. 9. U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger is presiding over the case.
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