The mother of a man killed by Elbert County sheriff’s deputies is suing the agency — as well as one of the deputy’s former employers — claiming her son was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and shouldn’t have died.
Christopher Poer, 46, was killed on April 12, 2018, after calling the police to report he was being watched and then, in a second call, that he had been robbed. Poer served as a Green Beret with the U.S. Army Special Forces, and his PTSD caused the delusions, according to the lawsuit filed Friday by Sherry Poer.
“Mr. Poer called the police in an attempt to get help,” the lawsuit stated.
During the second call, he put another woman on the phone with 911 dispatchers and that woman said Poer had a loaded gun and had pointed it at her.
As deputies arrived at the home in Elizabeth, Poer shot the gun in a nearby field, according to a synopsis of events from prosecutors who reviewed the incident.
Deputies found Poer lying in the field. Poer did not put his hands up at deputies’ instructions. The deputies then kicked him and attempted to arrest him. They picked up a handgun that had been lying near Poer’s feet. As Poer continued to resist arrest, Deputy Chris Dickey used his Taser on Poer’s legs and back and another deputy struck Poer in the head, rendering Poer unconscious.
Poer was pronounced dead at a hospital about 45 minutes later. A coroner’s report found that the death was caused in part by the Taser shocks, as well as heart disease and a toxic level of amphetamines.
“Defendants Dickey and (Travis) Turner, without just cause, willfully and maliciously used physical force against Mr. Poer, causing him severe injury and, subsequently, his death,” the lawsuit stated.
Dickey’s actions were found justified in October by investigators in the 18th Judicial District because he needed it to defend himself, according to the prosecutor’s office.
The lawsuit also focuses on Dickey, who previously worked as a police officer in Commerce City, and previous complaints about his use of excessive force.
In 2013, Dickey struck a man in the neck with his baton while the man was standing with his hands on his truck, according to the lawsuit. The man lost consciousness.
In 2014, Dickey pulled a man out of a car and threw him to the ground and struck him with a baton. He used his Taser at least five times on the man and broke his bones. The man was suffering from a diabetic shock, but Dickey suspected he was driving drunk. Commerce City cleared Dickey of wrongdoing but paid the man $825,000 to settle a lawsuit.
In 2016, Dickey chased and used his Taser on a man who was lawfully protesting on public property. The city paid $175,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the protester.
A few months later, Dickey pushed his gun into the back of a 16-year-old boy who was lying on the ground with his arms spread, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges Commerce City is liable for Poer’s death because it allowed Dickey to resign instead of being fired for his history of excessive force. The lawsuit also claims that the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office should have never hired Dickey because of that history, which has been documented publicly.
The Elbert County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately return a call for comment late Monday afternoon.
A Denver Post investigation in 2015 found that Colorado’s laws and police discipline system allows police officers to move from department to department after trouble.
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