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BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — Just two days after Boulder County signed a $400,000 lawsuit settlement for using a Taser on a woman who was in a restraint chair, a Boulder County Sheriff’s sergeant did the exact same thing.
Now-former Sgt. Christopher Mecca has been named in a new lawsuit along with Boulder County, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, two commanders and seven deputies.
The federal lawsuit filed Thursday on behalf of Travis Cole alleges multiple department leaders and staffers are to blame for using the stun gun on Cole, who was already in a restraint chair.
Cole was arrested by Longmont Police on Sept. 23, 2020, on a misdemeanor count of domestic violence. Within minutes of arriving at the jail, he was strapped to a restraint chair and two spit hoods were placed over his head.
On body camera video, Mecca can be heard saying, “You wanna go? You wanna go?” as he pressed a Taser against Cole’s leg. Mecca was one of eight deputies surrounding Cole when the Taser was used on him for five seconds.
“I’m strapped down, I’m defenseless. I can’t do anything. I can’t move my arms. I can’t move my
legs. I can barely even move my shoulders. And to be strapped down like that, it is very
degrading,” Cole said.
The 34-year-old told the Problem Solvers he would spend another four hours in a restraint chair for no reason. He said deputies escalated the situation by bringing out a restraint chair in the first place, when up until that moment, he said he had been compliant with law enforcement commands.
“Why haven’t your, your staff got into your head that the people that are coming into your jail are human beings? These are not animals. You don’t even treat an animal like that,” Cole said.
Using a Taser on a restrained person violates policy
The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office acknowledged that using a Taser on a suspect who’s already in restraints violates department policy.
That’s why Boulder County agreed to settle with Lauren Gelthoff for $400,000 on Sept. 21, 2020, after she filed a lawsuit in 2019 because a stun gun was used on her in November 2017, while she was in restraints.
According to Cole’s lawsuit, Sgt. Mecca had complained to a supervisor about the Gelthoff settlement just hours before he encountered Cole.
“Sergeant Mecca’s treatment of Mr. Cole was nothing short of sadistic,” said Mari Newman, the civil rights attorney who represented Gelthoff and now represents Cole.
“When this Boulder County sergeant tased Mr. Cole, what he said after the fact was, ‘I thought it would
look bad to use physical force against a Black man, as in beat him. So I decided it would look better on
video to tase him.’ Now, that’s just appalling,” Newman said.
Boulder sergeant no longer on the job after Taser incident
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle released the following statement to FOX31:
“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. The involved deputy (Sgt. Mecca) 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.”
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle
Both Newman and Cole told FOX31 they don’t believe the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office would have ever investigated Mecca if his conduct hadn’t been reported by the two Longmont Police officers who originally brought Cole to the jail.
“If they could have pushed this water under the bridge, I think that’s what would have happened,” Cole said.
Newman said none of the Boulder Deputies who helped restrain Cole and witnessed the Taser incident reported it to superiors. In fact, her lawsuit states some of the deputies told internal affairs investigators they believed Mecca’s conduct was justified, even though it violated department policy.
“The only reason why this issue was ever investigated was because the Longmont officers who had arrested Mr. Cole on a misdemeanor charge were so appalled by what they saw that they reported it to their own supervisors. So Boulder was forced to actually look into it. Would they have otherwise? I don’t think so,” said Newman, who added, “Boulder took no disciplinary action against any of the multiple officers who stood idly by as they watched their sergeant violate the law.”
Mecca would later be convicted by a jury of third-degree assault and official misconduct on Dec. 3, 2020, and received two years probation.
A Boulder County Sheriff spokesperson told FOX31 that Mecca quit his job in lieu of termination on Oct. 9, 2020, “as a result of his flagrant misconduct.”