FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A Fort Collins man is suing the police department after he was taken to the ground and pepper sprayed in the face two years ago after refusing to take a ticket for trespassing.
Attorney Sarah Schielke filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Andru Kulas related to the incident that occurred in the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 2021. The lawsuit names the City of Fort Collins as well as two individual officers, Kevin Park and Avery Hanzlicek.
According to the lawsuit, Kulas had suddenly lost his father and was out drinking with friends on the evening of Aug. 28, 2021. Just before 2 a.m. on Aug. 29, 2021, officers with Fort Collins Police Services contacted Kulas near the intersection of College and Mountain Avenues in Old Town Fort Collins in response to a call related to trespassing. He and another man were accused of going onto the rooftop of Brothers Bar and Grill where "no trespassing" signs were posted, the lawsuit says. Neither was still on the roof when police arrived.
Schielke also released body worn camera footage of Kulas' arrest. It shows Kulas approaching officers who are writing him a ticket and making multiple derogatory comments to them.
Kulas refused to take a ticket for trespassing and was then tackled and had pepper spray deployed into his eyes at close range, the lawsuit says. The camera footage provided by Schielke shows an officer, identified as Park in the lawsuit, attempting to place the ticket in a front pocket of Kulas' jacket just before the two get into a physical altercation and Kulas is taken to the ground.
While he's on the ground, the footage shows that pepper spray is used close to Kulas' face. According to his attorney, Kulas was also charged with obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest. Court records show those charges and the initial trespassing charge were all dismissed.
As a result of the pepper spraying, Kulas developed a permanent haze in his vision, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit alleges that Park "unlawfully" arrested Kulas and used "excessive force" while doing so. An internal affairs investigation found that Park did not violate any policies.
In response to the lawsuit, the Fort Collins Police Services released the following statement.
Upon receiving an allegation of excessive use of force related to this case, an investigation was conducted by Fort Collins Police Internal Affairs. The case involved the use of pepper spray by an officer while trying to control the defendant’s physically resistive actions when he was being charged for a criminal violation in the downtown area.
The case was thoroughly investigated at the time of the incident. As an additional layer of examination, Chief Swoboda requested an independent review be conducted. All facts of the case were presented to the Citizens Review Board (CRB).
The Citizens Review Board is a committee comprised of various community members, appointed by the city council, who render findings and make recommendations concerning officers’ actions related to police policies and procedures. After review, the CRB subcommittee unanimously agreed that the officer should be exonerated of allegations of unnecessary force. The City of Fort Collins and Fort Collins Police Services will contest the lawsuit’s allegations.