DENVER (KDVR) — Two years after a Denver mom called 911 for help, she’s filed a lawsuit against three Denver Police officers accusing them of excessive force, unlawful entry, wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution.
The lawsuit, filed in state district court by 46-year-old Lidya Ryans, names Denver Police Officers Grisleit Blanco and Christopher Brown, along with Cpl. Patrick Smith.
On April 20, 2021, the officers were dispatched to Ryans’ home for a call coded as “Nature Unknown.”
According to her lawsuit, Ryans had called 911 not to report a crime, but to ask for assistance in making sure her husband left their home peacefully.
The couple had been involved in a dispute about the care of Ryans’ son, and Lidya Ryans was concerned that her then-husband might wake her 19-year-old mentally disabled son, who has permanent brain damage and struggles with emotional regulation.
The lawsuit states that on “The night of April 19, 2021, Dante was experiencing one of his regular mental health episodes, in which he becomes overwhelmed and yells and cries in tantrums. These tantrums often precede seizures.”
Lawsuit: 911 familiar with household
Ryans had just put her son to bed and wanted to insure he wasn’t woken up by her husband, who Ryans was demanding to leave the couple’s home.
The lawsuit states, “Ms. Ryans has had to call Denver’s STAR line and 911 many times before for assistance during Dante’s episodes, including his regular seizures.”
Denver Police had previously placed an annotation in their 911 call records identifying Ryans’ home as one where a person “with mental health issues” lives. That annotation further instructs Denver Police to “always send a CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) officer” to Ryans’ home.
In an email from Denver’s Department of Public Safety, a spokesperson told FOX31 one of the three officers sent to the home was a CIT-certified officer — Cpl. Smith — but a social worker and paramedic from the city’s STAR program (Support Team Assisted Response), which includes behavioral health clinicians to engage individuals experiencing distress related to mental health issues, was not sent because the call was not STAR-eligible based on the dispatcher’s call notes.
Body camera video shows police encounter
By the time the three Denver Police officers arrive, they are told by Ryans, as heard on body camera video, that they’re no longer needed: “I just told her (dispatcher), you couldn’t come in my house, get out of my house, I didn’t ask you to come in here.”
Moments earlier, police had asked if they could come in through an open door, and Ryans can be heard yelling, “No,” but the officers entered anyway without a search warrant. Once inside, body camera video obtained by the Problem Solvers shows Ryans being verbally combative with officers, trying to assess why they’ve been called to the home.
One officer yells, “You called the police,” and Ryans responds, “I said get out. I didn’t allow you to get into my s—, that is against the law.”
Seconds later, an officer is heard saying, “I’m going to handcuff you,” and Ryans responds,” I’m not a threat to you, don’t push me, I’m not resisting.”
At the same time, Ryans’ husband is seen walking out of the house as police attempt to question and then handcuff Ryans for a reason they never state.
“My son has a traumatic brain injury,” she yells to police when her non-verbal son walks into the room and appears to hit a female officer in a possible effort to help his mother.
Punches thrown, woman arrested
At that point, Ryans’ lawsuit alleges at least one officer punches her in the head, and two of them shove her up against a wall and finally push her into a glass fixture that shatters on the floor. Ryans would be arrested and accused of assaulting a law enforcement officer.
On the body camera video, Ryans is heard saying, “You punched me,” and an officer responds, “Yeah, you punched first,” to which Ryans replies, “No I didn’t, my son punched her (female officer).
It would take 21 months, but on Jan. 6, the criminal charges against Ryans were dismissed by the Denver District Attorney’s Office.
“She is put through the criminal gauntlet. She’s made to be treated as a criminal when in fact she was the victim,” said attorney Cameron Bedard, who filed the civil lawsuit on Ryans’ behalf.
“The very fact that Ms. Ryans had called the police to make sure that her son stayed calm and this is the outcome that occurred is something that cannot be forgotten and lost in this case,” Bedard said.
He added that the experience has traumatized both Lidya Ryans and her son and said it’s unlikely she’ll ever call the police for help again: “She’s reluctant to call 911. And if there’s a person who needs those services, it’s a mom like that, a mom who has a mentally challenged son with severe disabilities.”
Department of Public Safety responds
The Department of Public Safety told the Problem Solvers its dispatcher received a call while the caller was arguing with someone in the background, and the caller “yelled at someone to get out of her house” and then disconnected her call while still arguing with someone in the background.
The Department of Public Safety further told FOX31 that the dispatcher tried to call back and did not get an answer on the callback.
In addition, the Department of Public Safety said due to call the notes, STAR could not be assigned and the dispatcher appropriately sent a police response that included a CIT police officer for a call coded “Nature Unknown.”
Internal Affairs determined there was no misconduct for the inappropriate force allegations made against Cpl. Smith. Allegations of discourtesy for Officer Bernal-Blanco’s foul language were handled as informal counseling.