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Bystander paralyzed after shooting that killed deputy sues city and sheriff’s office

Posted at 1:55 PM, Feb 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-05 00:21:07-05

COLORADO SPRINGS – Nearly one year to the day after he was shot, Thomas Villanueva filed a lawsuit that named deputies and officers involved in a shooting that left him paralyzed from the chest down.

A report from the 4th Judicial District determined auto theft suspect Manuel Zetina shot Villanueva as he fired off several rounds while trying to escape a bear-hug by Deputy Micah Flick as the Beat Auto Theft Through Law Enforcement (BATTLE) task force attempted takedown.

The same investigation determined no bullets fired by officers’ guns hit Villanueva or Flick, who died in the shooting. However, the lawsuit alleges that officers did not secure the perimeter while trying to arrest Zetina and officers didn’t identify themselves prior to the attempted arrest.

The officers and deputies involved were following Zetina from location to location as part of their investigation into when they moved in on him at the Murray Hill Apartments in after noticing he was making moves to lose officers, according to the lawsuit.

Lawyers said neighbors in the apartment complex “believed that a gang fight was happening in the parking lot” because the officers were in plain clothes and didn’t immediately identify themselves. The lawsuit also argues that law enforcement officers didn’t stop Villanueva from walking in the parking lot where the attempted arrest and shooting occurred.

The lawsuit specifically said that law enforcement created a dangerous situation with a combination of poor or non-existent training, officers not wearing visible police emblems or vests, unmarked cars in use by task force members, and were negligent in their handling of the attempted arrest of Zetina.

While the suit names individuals in it, those people “were acting within the course and scope of their employment /agency. Defendants El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado Springs Police Department are liable for the actions of their respective employees/agents pursuant to vicarious liability.”

The lawsuit specifically names the following people and organizations:

  • El Paso County- Bill Elder
  • The City of Colorado Springs
  • The estate of Micah Flick
  • Deputy Scott Stone
  • Sheriff’s Sgt. Jacob Abendschan
  • Sheriff’s detective John Watts
  • Sheriff’s detective Tremaine White
  • Sheriff’s detective Stephanie Criss
  • Sheriff’s detective Michael Boggs
  • CSPD Chief Peter Carey
  • CSPD Sgt. Kevin Miyakusu
  • CSPD officer Marcus Yanez
  • CSP investigator John Reindollar
  • CSP Sgt. Chad Hunt

In addition to Villanueva being left paralyzed following the shooting, El Paso County Deputy Micah Flick died at the scene from a gunshot wound to the neck. Deputy Stone, Officer Yanez and Officer Abendschan were also injured by direct gunfire or shrapnel. Officers shot and killed Zetina in the exchange.

Deputy Micah Flick
El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputy Micah Flick was killed in the line of duty in February 2018 while serving as part of an auto theft task force in Colorado Springs

A comprehensive report from prosecutors ruled that officers and deputies were justified in using deadly force in the shooting and the bullets that injured Villanueva and killed Flick were fired from Zetina’s gun.