Aurora settles police brutality lawsuit; provides more officer training

11:20 PM, Feb 5, 2013   |    comments
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AURORA - After a year-and-a-half of legal wrangling, the City of Aurora decided to settle a lawsuit accusing the police of brutality.

On December 18, 2010, officers handcuffed Ricky Burrell while he was in the middle of a seizure.

Burrell died in December of an unrelated illness.

As part of the settlement, the city will pay his estate $100,000 and officers are getting new training.

9Wants to Know obtained the 911 tape during which Burrell's wife Evelyn King tells dispatch repeatedly Burrell is fighting her.

From Aurora 911:

King: "He's had three seizures, he's a recovering alcoholic, but he's incoherent like he's having another one."
King: "He's fighting me."

Aurora police found Burrell unconscious and lying face down on the bed.

Burrell described his recollection of the incident in an interview with 9Wants to Know in May of 2012.

"To me I felt like I went to sleep. The next thing I remember I was being attacked by the police," Burrell said.

Burrell died of cancer in December of 2012.

A lawsuit filed before his death says officers mistook Burrell's seizure for resisting arrest.

Assistant Aurora City Attorney Peter Morales says the city still disputes some of the lawsuit's claims, including that officers broke Burrell's wrist while handcuffing him.

Morales says the decision to pay Burrell's estate $100,000 prevented the possibility of a more expensive trial.

"The fact of settlement does not mean any admission of guilt on the part of the city," Morales said.

Morales says seizure training for officers has been in the works since August of 2012.

"If we can teach them about those subtle signs to at least start asking maybe one more question will prevent an unfortunate situation," Morales said.

Jennifer Houston with the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado is training all 650 Aurora police officers.

Aurora police are learning someone in the middle of a seizure is basically unconscious with their eyes open.

They might be confused, appear drunk or high, or even lash out unintentionally.

The foundation gets at least 15 reports a year from people across Colorado who have been falsely arrested for having a seizure.

"Knowledge is power. People can be very combative and it can be looked at as drug or alcohol intoxication," Houston said.

The foundation says more than 50,000 Coloradoans are living with epilepsy and 1 in 10 people will have a seizure in their lifetime.

Attorney Mari Newman sued the city of Aurora on behalf of Burrell and his family.

"Rickey and Evelyn's goal was always to make this world safer for people who suffer seizures like he does. To make sure this didn't happen to anybody else and they've succeeded in making that happen. So this is an incredible legacy for Rickey to leave behind," Newman said,

Training for officers will continue in Aurora through the end of the February.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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