COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) — A lawsuit has been filed against three Colorado Springs Police Department officers from an alleged use-of-force incident with a teenager two years ago.
The lawsuit was filed by David Lane and Catherine Ordoñez on behalf of Amara Keens-Dumas. She was a 17-year-old high school student at the time, who claims she was forced to the ground, denied access to her phone to call her mother and pepper sprayed after she did not respond to officers’ questions when they found her distraught and upset in the street on Oct. 17, 2020.
Keens-Dumas had supposedly been in a fight with her boyfriend outside of the Parc Apartments and officers Ryan Yoshimiya and Brianna Ragsdale responded to the disturbance call just before 3 a.m., the lawsuit said. Keens-Dumas and her boyfriend were talking on the side of the street when the officers arrived and she refused to engage with the officers’ questions.
Keens-Dumas’ brother was with her and told the officers she had recently suffered a traumatic experience, had been drinking and he was getting her back inside, the lawsuit read. The officers allowed her brother to get her inside and left the property.
Approximately 45 minutes later, another disturbance call came in of a girl in the middle of the street crying and yelling.
How responding officers handled initial contact
Yoshimiya and Ragsdale responded again and allegedly asked her to calm down and sit down but she didn’t comply. She positioned herself with her arms behind her back to be handcuffed, the lawsuit said.
Ragsdale placed her in handcuffs and went to put her in the car. The lawsuit said Keens-Dumas was previously sexually assaulted and when Yoshimiya touched the inside of her thigh when she was up against the patrol car, that triggered a traumatic response.
In a video provided by Keens-Dumas’ lawyers at Killmer, Lane, & Newman LLP, you can see the officers and her struggle then they placed her on the street, face down as she’s screaming.
“Both officers put their weight on Ms. Keens-Dumas, which caused painful cuts, scrapes, and bruising on her arms, knees, and legs,” the lawsuit states.
After Keens-Dumas was in the backseat of the patrol car, she continued to scream at the officers to give her her phone and she wanted her mom. At this point, the lawsuit said Sergeant Gregory Wilhelmi arrived and got involved in the situation.
Sergeant Wilhelmi arrives and gets involved
The suit claims Wilhelmi asked if Keens-Dumas had been sprayed and the officers responded that she had not been pepper sprayed.
“Even though Ms. Keens-Dumas was already restrained in the back of the police car, Defendant Wilhelmi forcefully commanded ‘Spray her,'” the lawsuit read.
Yoshimiya opened the car door and warned Keens-Dumas that if she didn’t calm down, he was going to pepper spray her. She continued to plead for her mom before apparently having a panic attack in which she was hyperventilating, the lawsuit said.
After she continued to yell that she was a minor and was allowed a phone call, the lawsuit said Wilhelmi sprayed her once in the forehead with pepper spray and then again in the eyes and nose.
The document said Wilhelmi and Yoshimiya closed the doors, trapping her in the car with no open windows in a fog of pepper spray.
“Ms. Keens-Dumas continued to cry and scream for her mom and for help as she sat in horrific pain. The pepper spray burned her eyes, face, throat, lungs, hands, and feet,” the lawsuit said.
She was allegedly left in the back of the police car after the spraying for approximately 10 minutes without any medical attention, the lawsuit said. She was finally able to flush her eyes when Emergency Medical Services arrived but instead of taking her to the hospital, the officers took her to the jail where she was detained until she was released to her mother.
Lane told FOX31 Keens-Dumas was arrested on obstruction charges but those charges were later dropped.
What Keens-Dumas is asking for in lawsuit
The lawsuit lists several expectations from judgment including compensatory and economic damages which could entail “physical and mental pain, humiliation, fear, anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of liberty, privacy, and sense of security and individual dignity.” It also included legal and court fees, a written apology from the officers and disciplinary action against the officers involved.
FOX31 reached out to CSPD but the department declined to comment on an ongoing lawsuit. As a follow-up, FOX31 has asked whether the incident was reviewed and if the officers were disciplined.
“Generally speaking all uses of force are reviewed by the chain of command. If a supervisor believed additional investigation was necessary, it could be referred for an internal investigation. As for if any officers were disciplined, that question appears to be predicated on the assumption that they did something wrong but regardless, we won’t comment on situations involving on-going litigation,” a CSPD spokesperson told FOX31.