City pays $310,000 to Craig man in police taser lawsuit
A Craig resident who was hospitalized after being tased by police officers recently received $310,000 from the city as part of a settlement agreement in an excessive-force lawsuit, according to court documents.
The city’s settlement with Grayson Dennis was made official in the court record Oct. 1 and came nearly one year after he sued Daron Hashir, Grant Laehr and Joshua Lyons. The federal lawsuit alleged the three Craig police officers used excessive force on Dennis when they went to his home in response to his 911 call for help on Feb. 18, 2020.
The settlement agreement, obtained last week by the Craig Press from the city through an open-records request, included the release of the three officers from any claims by Dennis. The agreement also said the city was admitting no liability in the incident, and Dennis was assuming responsibility for medical bills associated with it.
The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court of Denver on Oct. 15, 2020, accused the three officers of escalating a mental-health episode Dennis was experiencing when they went to his home and detained and handcuffed him.
Attorneys with the Denver civil rights firm Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, which represented Dennis in his lawsuit, said Dennis did not pose a threat, and the responding officers knew better when they encountered him.
“Grayson Dennis just wanted the City of Craig to recognize what happened to him — being repeatedly tased while handcuffed after having called 911 for help himself, while known to be unarmed and not wanted for a crime — was totally unacceptable,” said lawyers Rachel Kennedy and John Holland in a joint statement. “He hopes that with his lawsuit and the settlement, this message has been received. He is also hopeful that going forward police in Craig and everywhere will be much better trained and required to utilize the crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques that this situation demanded.”
When police initially arrived on the scene, they spoke to Dennis’s father before entering the house, based on video footage from a police officer’s body camera. Dennis asked for the officers’ help because he believed he had taken cyanide and other substances. Yet when officers tried to detain him, Dennis became combative and he was tased multiple times, the complaint alleged.
“Predictably, having been subjected to grossly excessive force and being tased at least five times, Mr. Dennis was by then experiencing a medical crisis on top of a mental health crisis,” the suit said. “He was transported to Memorial Hospital in Craig, where he was intubated and diagnosed with acute respiratory failure before being flown via Flight for Life to a Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit. When he woke up Mr. Dennis had tubes coming out of his mouth, a catheter, and was unsure where he was or what had happened. All he knew was that he had called 911 for help and ended up seriously brutalized and in fear for his life.”
At no time did the city admit wrongdoing in the incident, and in a formal response to the lawsuit filed in December 2020, attorneys for the three officers countered that Dennis yelled at, cursed at, and pulled away from the officers when they were trying to stabilize him for transport. He also spit on one officer, was combative and refused officers’ commands while being warned he would be tased if his behavior persisted.
The city made its argument in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. That motion, however, was not ruled upon while the parties conducted a mediation process, according to court papers.
The city declined comment for this story.
The settlement agreement with Dennis was the second one the city made in 2021 with a plaintiff suing over excessive police force.
On Jan. 24, a federal judge signed an order dismissing Croix Orona’s suit accusing Craig police of tasing him at his home when they were in his neighborhood looking for someone whose description did not fit Orona’s. Police encountered Orona on his porch and asked him several questions he would not answer before drawing their stun-guns on him, the suit alleged.
The city agreed to pay $60,000 to Orona over the July 2018 tasing incident, and like the Dennis lawsuit agreement, did not admit any liability of fault.
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