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Lawsuit accuses police, health care workers violated couple’s rights in detox center stint

DENVER — A couple has filed a civil lawsuit after they said they were detained in a detox center after a Broncos game last season.

Michael Cornell and his girlfriend Lauren Rodriguez were taken to the Denver C.A.R.E.S detox center after the Broncos beat the New England Patriots, 30-24, last year.

Cornell and Rodriguez were not charged. But the couple filed a lawsuit against police and health care workers, saying they colluded to violate their due process rights by illegally detaining them.

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The lawsuit, filed Tuesday by attorney Elisabeth Owen, names police chief Robert White and Denver Health Medical Center CEO Dr. Bill Burman as defendants.

Police and Denver C.A.R.E.S. staff “detained Mr. Cornell and Ms. Rodriguez as part of their policy and custom of unlawfully committing intoxicated individuals who do not pose a threat to themselves or others to the Denver C.A.R.E.S. facility,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit claims police and Denver C.A.R.E.S. illegally detain intoxicated people “they believe have the means to pay.”

But that violates the state’s emergency commitment statute because police and Denver C.A.R.E.S. don’t have probable cause to hold people, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit claims officers asked Cornell if he had been drinking. He said he had but was not driving home. He was then handcuffed and his head was slammed against the side of a police vehicle.

Cornell and Rodriguez were threatened with arrest if they did not cooperate, the lawsuit said. They were placed in a room with cots and Gatorade. They were released the next morning after being forced to pay $325 for treatment, the lawsuit said.