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County pays $2.4 million to woman wrongly arrested, tased while naked in own home

A gavel cracks down. (Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid/U.S. Air Force)

Fremont County, Colorado paid $2.4 million last week to a woman who was wrongly arrested while naked and in her own apartment, then locked into a restraint chair and shocked with a Taser.

A jury last year awarded the woman, Carolyn O’Neal, $3.6 million after she sued the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office over the 2014 incident, but a federal judge later reduced that amount to about $2.1 million, prompting both sides to appeal.

The county later agreed to drop its appeal and settle with O’Neal for $2.4 million, her attorney, David Lane, said Sunday.

“This was an outrageous case,” he said. “Law enforcement officers who believed they were above the law got smacked down hard by a jury. And unfortunately this costs the taxpayers of Fremont County a lot of money. But I hope it inspires the citizenry to demand accountability from law enforcement — otherwise it’s coming out of their pockets.”

Sheriff’s deputies were called to O’Neal’s apartment in a sober living facility in May 2014 for a welfare check over concerns she might harm herself. She told the deputies who came to her door to go away, that she was naked and about to take a bath, and that she had no intention of harming herself.

The three men used a key to enter her apartment anyway, then threw her on a bed and arrested her.

She was still unclothed when she was taken to jail and put into a restraint chair for several hours. At one point, deputies released her legs from the chair, but later decided to strap them back in. O’Neal resisted their efforts and deputies shocked her twice with a Taser, even though her arms and torso were still completely restrained by the chair, and she’d been forced to wear a spit mask.

O’Neal was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest; those charges were later dismissed.


(c) 2020 The Denver Post

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