2 state prison guards face charges, lawsuit for excessive force

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DENVER -- A Colorado Department of Corrections officer and a former prison guard are facing criminal charges and a lawsuit in an excessive-force case.

The two men and several others within the Department of Corrections face a federal lawsuit in what an investigator calls "the most heinous case of excessive force" he has ever seen.

Shawn Lovett, 30, was knocked unconscious after being slammed head first into a floor and kneeled on his back during a September 2014 incident at the Centennial Correctional Facility in Canon City, according to video footage. He's serving a 30-year prison sentence for sexual assault and robbery.

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"He might be locked up. But he’s not an animal," Lovett's mother Penny McFadden said.

The prison videos are hard for a mother to watch. But it's not hard to see what looks like a crime as prison guard Anthony Martinez jerks the leg-cuff chain of Lovett, tossing him face-first onto a concrete floor. Moments later, a puddle of blood begins to form.

Martinez and guard Shannon Proud were transferring Lovett from one location of the prison to another.

"He tried to kick you guys?" asks one of the prison guards who began recording the use of force with a handheld camera.

"Stop fighting Lovett. Stop fighting," the supervisor can be heard saying on the video.

"You can see he's not resisting. He's gravely injured. And the priority there, of course, was not medical care. It was covering up what they did," said Lovett's attorney Sarah Schielke.

Schielke said Martinez and Proud severely hurt Lovett for no reason, causing a traumatic brain injury. She said they then lied about it.

"You can’t almost kill an inmate on purpose with impunity," Schielke said.

She said Martinez claimed the sole reason he took down Lovett was because Lovett kicked back, hitting his wrist.

"There is no kick," she said the video clearly shows.

Then, the guards said he kept fighting them on the ground. For two minutes, they put all their weight onto Lovett's back, only getting off when ordered to do so.

"Guys, get your knee off him," the supervisor on the video said.

But an investigation revealed Lovett was knocked nearly unconscious. Guards and medical personnel got Lovett to a medical facility where eventually a doctor stitched up two cuts on his face.

"You just can't behave,” a nurse on the video said.

"I wasn't even doing anything," Lovett said.

But the prison did nothing for Lovett's traumatic brain injury.

"This happened a year and a half ago. He's never had an X-ray, a scan. He said he's in pain. He suffers migraines, vision loss," Schielke said.

After the incident, the department's inspector general's office launched an investigation and found Martinez knowingly caused Lovett serious harm and injury. It also found that Proud falsely reported that Lovett provoked the takedown and the use of actions that followed.

RELATED: Shawn Lovett OIG report

“People we judge to be criminals should not be put into the care of other criminals,” Schielke said.

Martinez has been charged with second-degree assault, third-degree assault and attempting to influence a public official, Fremont County court records show. He has since been fired by the department.

Proud also is facing charges of being an accessory to a crime, failure to report use of force, official misconduct, false reporting and attempting to influence a public official. He is still employed by the department.

Martinez and Proud have pleaded not guilty and will go to trial later this year.

Lovett is serving a 30-year sentence after being convicted on several felony charges, including sexual assault and robbery with a deadly weapon.

A lawsuit was filed on Lovett's behalf in U.S. District Court in Denver in March by The Life and Liberty Law Office in Loveland and names seven defendants, including the two officers, the facility's warden and members of the medical staff.

McFadden said she understands her son is serving time for mistakes he has made but said that doesn't justify the way he was treated.

"My son is not an animal and to be treated like that and I watched that video and if anybody watches that video ... I'm sorry ... and see how they treated my son," McFadden said. "My son was unconscious. Knocked out."

Lovett has since been moved to a prison in Pueblo.

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