LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. — The deputy who used his Taser against a man on Interstate 25 who then died after being hit by oncoming traffic should not have used the stun gun, but did not commit a crime, the district attorney said Monday.
Larimer County Sheriff's Deputy Lorenzo Lujan pulled over Brent Thompson, 28, along I-25 in Larimer County in February after seeing the Ford Fusion Thompson was driving had expired tags. Body camera video shows Thompson gave Lujan a fake name, then took off running once Lujan said he was going to arrest him.
Lujan ran after Thompson, then deployed his Taser. Thompson fell onto I-25, where he was hit and killed by an oncoming car.
"Although tragically Mr. Thompson died in this case, it was not a deadly physical force case as Colorado law defines it," DA Gordon McLaughlin said in a virtual town hall Monday. "Because this was not a natural result or intended result of using a Taser, this was not -- per statute -- deadly physical force, and that changes the entire rest of our analysis."
He said the incident should not have unfolded the way it did -- even if the deputy claimed he was trying to protect Thompson and other drivers on the road.
"The investigation showed that judgment was wrong. That was incorrect. It obviously did not end up protecting Mr. Thompson," McLaughlin said.
However even if the deputy made the wrong call, he will not be punished -- by the sheriff's office or with criminal charges from the DA.
"My decision was not whether something was right or wrong," McLaughlin explained. "My decision can only be legally whether I can charge that crime and prove that crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
He said using a Taser against a running suspect is acceptable in most circumstances and the Larimer County Sheriff's Office does not train on whether to deploy Tasers on highways -- in part, he said because the Taser manufacturer said no one has been fatally run over after being Tased.
McLaughlin said Lujan did not intend for Thompson to die and he doesn't think he could prove the deputy criminally responsible for Thompson's death.
"Not every tragedy is appropriate for criminal charges and that's the situation here as far as our scope of authority at the district attorney's office," he said.
McLaughlin said the sheriff's office could discipline Lujan, but it already said the deputy didn't violate policy. McLaughlin said the only other option in this case is a lawsuit -- Thompson's family plans to file one.
He said he hopes law enforcement reevaluates its training in light of this case. "I absolutely believe that law enforcement agencies can benefit from this case in hopefully preventing it from ever happening again," McLaughlin said.
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