Fifth excessive force lawsuit filed against Steamboat police officers
Steamboat Springs — A Wyoming cowboy who competed in the July Fourth rodeo has filed a lawsuit alleging excessive use of force by two Steamboat Springs police officers.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Denver. It is the fifth time in two years that the city of Steamboat has been sued for excessive use of force by its police officers.
Officers Ross Blank and Sam Silva are the officers named in the lawsuit. Blank no longer works for the Steamboat Police Department.
Lakewood attorney Brice Tondre filed the lawsuit on behalf of Trey Sheets, who lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
According to the lawsuit, Sheets went out to dinner after the July 4, 2014, rodeo with a team roping partner. They then went to a downtown bar and decided to leave at about 1:30 a.m.
At about that time, police were called to a report of a fight at the bar Sheets had been at.
One officer reported being in contact with a person meeting the description of the person involved in the fight.
Blank and Silva contacted Sheets at least 100 yards from the bar, the lawsuit states.
“As plaintiff was walking away from the (bar), defendants Blank and Silva, without warning, without a request that he stop and without probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe that plaintiff had committed a crime, tackled plaintiff from the rear, taking him to the ground,” the lawsuit states. “The force with which Plaintiff hit the ground severely injured his right wrist. Plaintiff was placed in handcuffs which were made too tight.”
Sheets was given a summons to appear in court for disorderly conduct. In September, the case was dismissed.
“Even if there was reasonable suspicion to stop and/or probable cause to arrest plaintiff, the force used was grossly unreasonable,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants Blank and Silva, through their training, knew that tackling Plaintiff from behind was dangerous and was done heedlessly, without regard for the consequences.”
According to the lawsuit, the city knew from “numerous prior incidents, of the propensity of Defendants Blank and Silva to use excessive force in connection with stops and arrests.”
“The leadership of the police department knew of and accepted heavy handed policing as the policy of the police department,” the lawsuit states.
When reached Thursday, Tondre said his client underwent three surgeries because of the wrist injury.
Sheets was also infected with MRSA, a staph bacteria that hospital patients sometimes are infected with.
According to the lawsuit, Sheets has missed 33 rodeo events because of the injury, which has resulted in a loss of income and a drop in Sheets ranking.
“The injury has affected Plaintiff’s career as a professional team roper,” the lawsuit states. “It is not yet known whether he will be permanently affected by the injury.”
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Sherry Burlingame never imagined herself as a chief of police.