Three of six excessive force lawsuits now settled

Matt Stensland

— The city of Steamboat Springs has now settled three of the six lawsuits filed in recents years by people claiming police used excessive force.

The terms of the settlements were not available. Often, settlement terms are kept confidential.

Steamboat attorney Grant Bursek handled five of the six cases, including the two recent settlements. He was not available for comment Tuesday.

With each lawsuit, the city is subject to a $50,000 out-of-pocket maximum insurance policy.

The two most recent settlements involved lawsuits filed by David Weaver and John Ferrugia.

Police initially believed Ferrugia was burglarizing a gym on Sept. 17, 2012.

When officers spoke with Ferrugia, he was upset and said he had a right to be at the 24-hour gym. Officers were suspicious, and the situation escalated when officers decided to go hands on with Ferrugia and forced him to the pavement.

In an attempt to disable Ferrugia, an officer delivered several knee strikes. Ferrugia claimed he had injuries that required surgery.

After finding Ferrugia’s membership card inside, officers stood Ferrugia up, and his handcuffs were removed.

Chelsea Blanchette, the plaintiff in a similar suit involving the same gym, settled her case in October 2014.

Weaver filed his lawsuit the same month, claiming that, while in custody at the Routt County Jail, an officer delivered multiple knee strikes, including one to his kidney. After Weaver began urinating blood, he was taken to the hospital.

Three lawsuits are still being litigated through U.S. District Court.

The most recent lawsuit was filed in October by Bursek on behalf of Ben Holdridge. Holdridge claims he was hit with a blunt object while sitting in the back of a patrol car on Sept. 9, 2014

Cory Hynes and Kyler Livingston claim they were play fighting when officers tackled them and took them to the ground head first on April 12, 2013. Livingston said he was knocked unconscious.

In his lawsuit, Wyoming cowboy Trey Sheets claimed he was also tackled to the ground by officers downtown and injured his wrist as a result. Sheets was in town competing at the July Fourth rodeo in 2014.

According to the lawsuit, Sheets missed 33 rodeo events because of the injury, which has resulted in a loss of income and a drop in Sheets’ ranking.

Officer Ross Blank was named in five of the six lawsuits. He no longer works at the department.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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