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Mother of man who died while restrained sues Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — A Littleton woman filed a lawsuit against the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office, claiming her son died as a result of deputies’ actions.

Deovalente Sarnella was at his Golden home on Sept. 2, 2015, when a neighbor called law enforcement to get a mental health welfare check on Sarnella, according to the lawsuit.

Jefferson County deputy Sheriff Eric Kuhns first responded to the house, followed by deputy Phillip Medlin. Sarnella, who was behaving strangely, reached into a cabinet.

That’s when the two deputies restrained Sarnella with his hands behind his back.

The lawsuit says a witness saw Kuhn and Medlin move Sarnella outside and put him face down in the grass.

A paramedic with West Metro Fire Rescue said Sarnella took his last breath as they arrived at the scene.

Paramedics attempted to revive Sarnella and restarted his heart. However, he was pronounced dead early the next morning at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood.

According to the lawsuit, Sarnella’s autopsy revealed he died from “anoxic encephalopathy secondary to a cardiac arrest” consistent with being high on methamphetamine.

The lawsuit states that because of the deputies’ alleged negligence, Sarnella “suffered injuries and damages including injuries to his internal organs and brain which ultimately resulted in the loss of his life.”

It further states, “Jefferson County Deputy Sheriffs willfully and wantonly exerted excessive physical force to restrain Sarnella to the point that he died from lack of oxygen to his brain.”

His mother, Judith Sarnella, is demanding damages from the office, including expenses for her son’s medical bills and funeral.

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