BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — A settlement was reached this week in a lawsuit filed by a woman who alleged excessive was used by Boulder County Jail employees when she was tased while in custody in 2017.
As part of the settlement, the county will pay $400,000.
The lawsuit filed in late 2019 alleged that eight jail employees used excessive force against Lauren Gotthelf in 2017, primarily by using a conductive energy device (CED) commonly known as a Taser on her while she was being placed in a restraint chair.
Gotthelf also accused the Boulder County Sheriff's Office (BCSO) of violating her rights for reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
She and her service dog Sage were in downtown Boulder on Nov. 25, 2017, and walked on the Pearl Street Mall as they made their way to her car, the lawsuit says.
A Boulder police officer approached her after seeing her light a cigarette, according to the lawsuit. That officer told her she could not smoke or have her service dog on the mall, the lawsuit says.
Gotthelf explained, according to the lawsuit, that Sage was her service dog and she had a right to have him with her under ADA.
The officer told her she would be receiving a summons for having her service dog on the mall, smoking in public, and littering, the lawsuit says.
When Gotthelf refused to sign the ticket, the lawsuit says the officer called for backup and "two other officers forcibly arrested" Gotthelf.
After she was booked into the jail, BCSO deputies claimed Gotthelf "expressed an intention to harm herself", the lawsuit says. Gotthelf denies ever making suicidal statements.
In response to their belief that Gotthelf was experiencing a mental health crisis, the deputies demanded that she strip naked and put on a smock, the lawsuit says.
When she questioned why, Gotthelf was told, "It was policy, and she had no choice," the lawsuit alleges. Three deputies entered her jail cell, handcuffed her, and "forcibly removed her," according to the lawsuit.
Gotthelf was "handcuffed behind her back and physically pinned to the restraint chair" by at least four deputies when one deputy tased her on her upper thigh, the lawsuit says.
>Body camera footage of the incident is below
At the time the lawsuit was filed, BCSO said in a statement on its website, the agency had "factual disagreements with the allegations within the lawsuit." It noted that Gotthelf "was disruptive" when she arrived at the jail and was placed in a holding cell.
However, as a result of the lawsuit, Boulder County said it has re-evaluated its policies and made the following changes:
- Prohibiting the use of a CED by a deputy while an individual is restrained in a restraint chair
- Requiring consultation with jail mental health staff before using a restraint chair to restrain a detainee, where possible
- Requiring the presence of jail medical or mental health staff to evaluate the need for suicide protocols regarding a detainee before implementing suicide protocols, where possible
- In-person mental health services will be available for detainees at all times (except that during the COVID pandemic, they may be provided through Telehealth means during nighttime hours)
- Additional mandatory training of deputies on these changes in policy, including deescalation and treatment of inmates and detainees with mental health concerns
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Local stories from 9NEWS