The man who had a stun gun used on him while he was in restraints at the Boulder County Jail, a case that resulted in the conviction of a former sergeant, has sued the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Travis Cole on Wednesday, names former Sgt. Christopher Mecca, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, and two commanders and seven deputies as defendants.
“How is a man tied to a chair a threat?” Cole said in a statement. “Being Black didn’t warrant that kind of treatment, humiliation, to be tied up for hours and degraded. I’ve never felt so defeated, and I couldn’t even protect my body.”
In naming the county, the lawsuit alleges deputies at the jail should have had more and better training.
“It is Boulder County’s and Defendant Pelle’s responsibility to properly train Boulder County officers to ensure they perform their duties correctly and to discipline, rather than ratify, their improper conduct, so that officers can learn from their mistakes… Boulder County’s and Defendant Pelle’s failure to do so has led to its officers’ unconstitutional conduct and will predictably lead to more unconstitutional conduct in the future,” the lawsuit states.
The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement on the matter Thursday.
“The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office had a policy in place prohibiting the use of a taser on a restrained inmate at the time of this event, and our staff had been trained on that policy,” Pelle said in a statement. “The involved deputy, was placed on leave within hours of the incident, and within a few weeks he was separated from our employment and charged with misdemeanor assault. The sheriff’s office acted quickly and with full public transparency in the handling of this misuse of force, and to hold the former employee accountable.
“The sheriff disagrees with the allegations in the lawsuit alleging culpability on the part of our agency, and counters that the former employee acted outside of our policy and training, and bears responsibility for that decision alone.”
Mecca was found guilty in Boulder County Court of misdemeanor counts of third-degree assault and official misconduct and sentenced to probation in connection with the incident, which occurred on Sept. 23, 2020.
According to an affidavit, Cole was brought to the jail by Longmont police on a domestic violence case. Law enforcement said he was combative with officers and intoxicated. When he arrived at the jail he “purposely went limp buckling at the knees as a means of being passively resistant.”
Mecca, one of the on-duty supervisors, instructed deputies to secure the man in a restraint chair. As deputies were placing him in the restraint chair and securing the straps, officials claimed Cole was reportedly verbally uncooperative, began spitting at staff, and attempted to bite at least one deputy.
While Cole was restrained, Mecca used a stun gun on his leg for five seconds.
But in the lawsuit, attorneys said Cole only “offered some mild passive resistance once confronted with the humiliation and discomfort of the restraint chair, including moving his upper body, blowing raspberries at the deputies, and holding a spit mask in his mouth.”
The lawsuit said Mecca “began to verbally taunt the helpless Mr. Cole, seeking to provoke aggression from the fully restrained arrestee by repeatedly challenging him to resist.”
“While continuing to taunt Mr. Cole, Defendant Mecca activated his taser and electrocuted Mr. Cole, watching his restrained body shake and writhe for approximately five seconds–an act of sheer cowardly sadism with no conceivable legitimate law enforcement or penological purpose, and a certain infliction of excessive force.”
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The lawsuit also blames the other deputies for standing by as they “observed Defendant Mecca’s threats and ultimate act of sadistic brutality.”
While the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office said Mecca self-reported the incident before later resigning in lieu of termination, the lawsuit alleges the incident only came to light after being reported by Longmont police officers who witnessed it.
Cole is being represented by Killmer, Lane and Newman, who also represented a woman who filed a lawsuit against the county in a similar case that was settled the day before Cole went into custody.
“The fact that a Boulder sheriff’s sergeant tased a fully restrained man days after settling another federal civil rights lawsuit for the exact same unconstitutional conduct shows just how deep rooted the culture of brutality is,” attorney Mari Newman said in a statement.