Law

Native deputies, EMS personnel face potential lawsuits in dying, beating – Colorado Springs Impartial



El Paso County Sheriff’s Office is being accused of brutality in a notice of claim.



One man died and another suffered a concussion with long-lasting impact due to the treatment they received in separate incidents at the hands of those who are supposed to help, according to notice of claim letters, a step required prior to filing a lawsuit, obtained by the Indy.

Hunter Barr, 26, died at a local hospital Sept. 25, 2020, after being injected by emergency responders with ketamine, often used as an anesthesia medication. Ketamine is the same drug that contributed to the death of Elijah McClain in August 2019 after Aurora Police stopped him while he was walking down a street, unarmed, and medics administered the drug. The McClain case has become one of the rallying cries for the Black Lives Matter movement nationwide in its fight for racial justice in law enforcement.

Barr’s father called the Colorado Springs Police Department Sept. 25 for help with his son, according to a notice of claim filed with El Paso County. American Medical Response and Colorado Springs Fire Department also responded, the document says. 

After the CSPD placed him in handcuffs, “EMS providers from AMR and CSFD elected to inject Hunter Barr with ketamine,” the letter says.

Barr arrived at a hospital unconscious and never regained consciousness, the claim letter says.

The letter notes that the El Paso County Coroner’s Office ruled the cause of death as “toxic effects of ketamine.” 

“Claimants’ son received two ketamine injections resulting in overdose and death,” the letter says, adding his father and mother, Milton Barr and Carma McMichen, seek $10 million in damages.

“CSPD appreciates the Independent reaching out to our organization to discuss this incident, but we are unable to speak on any matter that is under litigation,” CSPD Spokeperson Lt. James Sokolik says in an email.

Capt. Michael Smaldino, with CSFD, says via email: “Thank you for reaching out to the CSFD for comment on this, but we cannot discuss patient outcomes or treatments due to HIPPA,” the federal law barring release of medical information. 

Separately, on Aug. 5, 2020, in the 1700 block of B Street, Adam Nadeau was “struck multiple time[s] in the face by [El Paso County Sheriff’s] Sergeant [Jim] Mahan while he and Deputy [Melissa] Lance were restraining him,” a notice of claim letter states. Nadeau was later arrested on charges of second-degree assault against Mahan. 

“Numerous statements made by law enforcement in this case are directly contradicted by both body worn camera footage and third party video footage in Mr. Nadeau’s possession,” the claim letter says.

It notes Nadeau has suffered personal injuries and emotional trauma “caused by the purposeful unlawful conduct of law enforcement personnel….”

Nadeau was diagnosed with a “severe” concussion, for which the long-term consequences are believed to be “extensive,” the letter says, adding he also suffers nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder-like symptoms.

The letter says the value of damages and the compromise of his constitutional rights can’t be assessed yet, but seeks an “amount exceeding $75,000” for pain and suffering.

The claim letter was accompanied by a Nov. 30, 2020, letter to Nadeau from El Paso County Sheriff’s Sgt. A. Powell with the Internal Affairs Unit, saying, “This letter is to inform you the investigation has been completed. It was determined that there was a violation of El Paso County Sheriff’s policy and the appropriate action was taken.”

We’ve asked the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office to comment, and we’ve asked what “appropriate action” was taken in the Nadeau case. We’ve also requested body camera video of the Nadeau incident. We’ll circle back when we hear from them.

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