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Federal lawsuit filed against Colorado police officer and paramedic claims responders choked man to death

Lawsuit: Colorado Springs police officer, paramedic choked man to death
Lawsuit: Colorado Springs police officer, paramedic choked man to death 00:28

The family of a Colorado man is suing a police officer and paramedic from Colorado Springs after they responded to a mental health crisis and allegedly choked that man to death.

Kevin Dizmang was 63 when his family said he was experiencing a mental health crisis. His family and their attorneys announced the federal lawsuit against responders from the Colorado Springs Crisis Response Team in front of the Colorado Springs City Hall on Tuesday.

The lawsuit says Colorado Springs Police Officer Sean Reed and Colorado Springs Fire Department paramedic Nick Fisher killed Dizmang on Nov. 15, 2022 as he was in the middle of a mental health crisis. Dizmang has a documented history of PTSD and schizophrenia but had not hurt anyone that day, his family says.

"Crisis response teams are specifically designed to prevent tragedies like this," said Harry Daniels, of the attorneys representing Dizmang's family. "Instead they strangled a man begging for his life and laughed about it in the emergency room while he was dying."

Kevin Dizmang, left Courtesy / Harry M. Daniels LLC via Dizmang family

An autopsy report provided by the family's attorneys shows that Dizmang's death was ruled a homicide. The 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office, however, declined to charge Reed or Fisher.

It was Fisher, the lawsuit says, who tackled Dizmang and put him in a chokehold for about two minutes after Dizmang's ex-wife called 911 saying she thought her husband was trying to kill himself. After Dizmang became unresponsive, he was handcuffed and left lying in the road for about seven minutes before being put on a stretcher.

Bodycam video provided by Dizmang's family's attorneys further shows Fisher, a nurse in the hospital and another police officer laughing and joking about Fisher's takedown of Dizmang as emergency room staff were still actively doing CPR on Dizmang.

The Colorado Springs Fire Department and Colorado Springs Police Department said they don't comment on pending litigation but provided a joint statement they issued in February 2023:

Anytime a community member dies, we are saddened at the loss of life. We take these events seriously and, in this case, had the Deadly Force Investigation Team, led by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, investigate this event. They then sent the case to the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office for review and determination of the reasonableness of the force that was used. This exceeds the requirement by Colorado law, but we believe it is best for transparency and honest review for our community.

All of our Community Response Team members are highly trained professionals, coming from diverse backgrounds with the goal of assisting our community members who are in crisis and need immediate intervention. The team is comprised of a Colorado Springs Police Department Officer, a Colorado Springs Fire Department Paramedic, and a Diversus Health Clinician. Unfortunately, even with all of the training and expertise on this CRT team, we can't control every factor involved in an interaction with a community member such as the actions, underlying medical conditions and intoxication of the involved person prior to our involvement.

The lawsuit calls for a jury trial and for the court to declare that Reed's and Fisher's actions were unlawful and for damages for Dizmang's family.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this story wrongly identified Nick Fisher as a firefighter. It's been updated to reflect that Fisher was a paramedic employed by the Colorado Springs Fire Department. A department spokesperson said he resigned from the department on June 17, 2023.

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