Craig police officers face suit following tasing of man in February
Three Craig Police Department officers are facing a civil suit from a Craig resident stemming from a February 2020 incident in which the officers repeatedly tased the man who they knew was unarmed, was not wanted for a crime, and had himself called 911 for help with a mental health crisis.
The lawsuit was filed Oct. 15 by the law firm of Holland, Holland, Edwards & Grossman in federal court against Officers Grant Laehr, Joshua Lyons, and Daron Hashir. The lawsuit alleges that the officers knew Grayson Dennis, 27, was having a mental health breakdown and could not fully understand why he was being escorted to the ambulance by police officers, according to the lawsuit. When Dennis later requested the opportunity to speak with his father and girlfriend, officers refused and continued to move Dennis towards the ambulance, causing him to become upset and worsening his mental health crisis, according to the lawsuit.
Craig Police and the City of Craig have until Tuesday, Dec. 8 to respond to the civil suit, as the department is a government agency, lead attorney Rachel Kennedy said.
When reached for comment, City of Craig Attorney Heather Cannon said the city will not comment on the lawsuit at this time, “due to pending litigation.”
Dennis went into acute respiratory failure after officers repeatedly shot him with tasers, which was captured in body-camera footage recorded by one of the officers. Dennis was then rushed to a hospital over 100 miles away in a flight-for-life helicopter.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
“What we saw in this case is sort of what we’re seeing in the rash of excessive force cases being publicized throughout the country,” said Rachel Kennedy, the lead attorney on the lawsuit for Holland, Holland, Edwards & Grossman. “People who are in the midst of crisis have nowhere to turn. The only resource available to them is calling 911.”
Kennedy is a Colorado native who graduated magna cum laude from Colorado State University in Fort Collins. While in law school at the University of Denver, Rachel worked in the Civil Rights Clinic and has worked on a number of excessive force cases in the past.
“Rather than using the crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques this situation fairly called for, these officers unconscionably escalated the situation by refusing Mr. Dennis, who was unarmed and not suspected of committing any crime, the small comfort of talking to his family. Instead they yelled at him, tried to physically force him towards the ambulance, and then began tasing him right next to his heart,” Kennedy added.
The incident between Dennis and the three officers occurred Feb. 18, according to the civil suit. After calling 911 for help during a mental health crisis, Dennis had fallen asleep and was in bed next to his girlfriend when the officers arrived. After waking, Dennis told them that “he had been having breakdowns, hearing voices, wanted to hurt himself, and that he had taken ‘a lot of different things’ in an attempt to kill himself that day.”
A list of items he’d ingested included an “unknown amount of Benadryl, Xanax, and Cyanide,” according to his girlfriend, as stated in the lawsuit. She added that “he hadn’t slept for days because he was ‘having a problem with meth,’” and his lethargic nature and slurred speech strongly suggested that he remained under the influence of the assorted substances.
After speaking with Dennis, officers tried to transport him to a waiting ambulance, which culminated with Dennis being tased at least five times, four of which occurred while he was handcuffed, the lawsuit states.
“Grayson Dennis called 911 for help and was not a threat or danger to anyone,” Kennedy said. “Basic common sense and decency tells officers that they can’t tase a handcuffed person multiple times, especially when the only reason they are interacting with the person is to ensure their mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.”
Cannon said the city stands in support of the officers at this time. It is unknown at this time if the three officers were disciplined for the incident.
“We stand behind and support our officers,” Cannon said. “This is a difficult time with the status of law enforcement in general, but as far as specifics on the case or on the status of the officers, we’re not going to comment at this time.”
According to Kennedy, the city turned the lawsuit over to Attorney Eric M. Ziporin, a partner with SGR, LLC, a civil defense litigation firm in Denver.
“I have supported the police my entire life,” Dennis said in a statement. “But I have lost all faith in the police now. I can’t believe this happened. I called them for medical assistance and ended up handcuffed and brutalized. This whole incident has just put a damper on the happiness in my life.”
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Justin Smith, 31 of Craig, was charged Thursday morning in court with attempted murder in the second degree and felony menacing.