Vail police brutality case headed to trial
VAIL, Colorado – A federal judge has dismissed claims against the town of Vail, Colorado and a Vail police detective-sergeant in a lawsuit that alleges police brutality.
However, the judge did not dismiss claims against two Vail police officers – James Applegate and Jessica Deery – involved in the 2006 incident. A date for a jury trial has been set for Nov. 2.
Diana Johnson, of Vail, filed suit against Applegate, Deery, Detective Sgt. Craig Bettis and the town of Vail in U.S. District Court in Colorado. Claims of improper supervision and training against Bettis and the town of Vail were thrown out in a May 19 ruling by Judge Lewis T. Babcock.
Applegate and Deery, who was in training, responded to Johnson’s home on March 10, 2006, after Johnson’s son called 911 and hung up, according to the lawsuit. The 911 call was made because of an argument between the mother and son, Applegate and Deery were told by dispatchers, according to the lawsuit.
However, Applegate and Deery were told that a dispatcher had called back the 911 caller, and authorities were told that police were not needed, the lawsuit said.
Applegate and Deery responded nonetheless. Johnson was doing home repairs and was holding a screwdriver in her hand in a nonaggressive manner, the lawsuit says.
The officers grabbed Johnson’s right arm, twisted it behind her back and wrested the screwdriver from her, bruising her arm and tearing her rotator cuff, according to the lawsuit.
Deery later grabbed Johnson’s arm, causing further pain and injury, and handcuffed her, the lawsuit states.
Johnson, who court documents says was 73 at the time, was arrested and later pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct.
In a response to the lawsuit, a filing on behalf of the defendants says Johnson was holding the screwdriver in an “aggressive manner.” Applegate asked for the screwdriver and then was “eventually” able to take it from her, according to the court document.
Vail police acted in self-defense and any injuries that Johnson may have gotten were her own fault, the document says.
“Defendants’ actions were at all times conducted in good faith and without intent to injure or deprive (Johnson) of her civil rights,” the documents says.
Eric Michael Ziporin, an attorney who represents the town of Vail, Bettis, Applegate and Deery, said the town of Vail continues to stand behind the conduct of Applegate and Deery, who is also known as Jessica Mayes.
Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger declined to comment on the case Friday.
The lawsuit’s claims include illegal seizure, use of excessive force and unlawful entry. The lawsuit contends that Johnson’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated.
Brice A. Tondre, attorney for Johnson, said he and his client are happy the lawsuit is going to trial.
“In this day and time when we’re talking about the misconduct of government and torturing people to get them to talk, it’s something the public needs to be concerned about – that law enforcement officers are staying within the bounds of the Constitution,” Tondre said.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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