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County settles excessive force lawsuit with former Colorado Coll - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

County settles excessive force lawsuit with former Colorado College student

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COLORADO SPRINGS -

El Paso County has settled an excessive force lawsuit with a former Colorado College student who was arrested back in 2014 for threatening to run over a group of people with her car. After being book into jail,  25-year-old Philippa McCully was injured when one of the deputies placing her in a holding cell pulled her legs out from under her causing her to fall and hit her head. 

According to the lawsuit, McCully's arms were being held behind her. She reacted to the "leg sweep" technique by trying to break her fall with her knee. In the process, her knee was fractured and she suffered torn ligaments and deep bruises on her face, torso, and legs. The lawsuit further claims that McCully never received medical treatment for her injuries during the 5 days she was held behind bars.

Inmates who are booked in the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center are ordered to kneel at the back of the holding cell for safety sake. Assistant County Attorney Lisa Kirkman told County Commissioners that McCully didn't do that prompting the deputies to perform the leg sweep restraint.

"The idea was that the other deputies that were on the other sides were to catch her and lower her to the ground," Kirkman explained. "On this date, unfortunately, when she pulled the legs the inmate was not caught."

As part of the settlement agreement, McCully will receive $675,000.   The County's insurance will pay that amount. However, the policy only kicks once legal costs have exceeded $250,000. 

The decision to settle was made by the insurance provider. Commissioners were not given the option. The board still passed a unanimous resolution Tuesday publicly recognizing that the settlement had taken place.

"I want to emphasize again that this is a business decision," Kirkman explained.

Undersheriff Joe Breister told the board that while McCully's injury happened in 2014, Sheriff Bill Elder only became aware of it after the lawsuit was filed in 2016.  He explained that a number of reforms have since been instituted at the jail.  Leg sweeps are no longer used to restrain inmates and all deputies are required to digitally record use of force reports on a software system that prepares that data for command staff.

"Hopefully to avoid any future problems with any deputies who may be viewed as heavy-handed or just might not have the proper techniques in their bag of tools, so to speak, to handle appropriately the situations they're encountering in the jail," Breister said.

Attorney Darold Kilmer said he and his client are gratified with the settlement in this case. His statement reads:

"We are very gratified with the settlement in this case.  El Paso County allowed their jail to become a violent, dangerous facility, where guards competed with each other to see who could use the most force against the most people.  The actually had a “Fight Club” among their guards, awarding the winners trophies and other rewards.  It was a shocking situation, and many people became badly injured.  The management of the jail was appallingly indifferent to the widespread constitutional violations.  Instead, the Sheriff, the Undersheriff, and the command staff were all engaged in their own petty interoffice political struggles.  The El Paso County community should be outraged at the management of this facility over the course of many years.  Hopefully, this settlement should close a dark chapter in the history of the El Paso County Jail."

In the lawsuit, Kilmer had argued that McCully was taking psychiatric medication at the time of her arrest and had been acting erratically. Court records indicate she pleaded guilty in 2015 to a single charge of menacing and was sentenced to 3 years probation. 

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