Fremont County in Colorado has paid a $2.4 million settlement to a woman who was arrested while naked in 2014. Deputies were ostensibly supposed to be there just to perform a welfare check. Legally speaking, this resolves a federal lawsuit by plaintiff Carolyn O’Neal.
She sued in 2016. In the complaint obtained by Law&Crime, O’Neal had been staying at the New Creations Inn, a sober living facility. Deputies took her into custody after she made an off-hand remark about dying by suicide.
This account described her going through some serious life challenges. She had become homeless after she left her husband in Aug. 2010, and she could not work because of spine problems that required surgery. Other medical issues included post traumatic stress disorder from childhood experiences.
On top of that, the complaint alleged that O’Neal ended up facing physical abuse at the hands of a boyfriend, including a broken arm and burn from a cigarette. She escaped to Cañon City, Colorado to live near one of her children and help care for a grandson. O’Neal moved into New Creations Inn in a bid to turn her life around, and ended up joining Alcoholics Anonymous. According to the complaint, O’Neal planned on moving again in 2014, this time to Grand Junction. Her mother had pancreatic cancer. Plans changed for the worst, however. She learned from her sister that doctors decided that the cancer was too advanced to operate on.
Then came the comment about suicide. Here’s how her attorney David Lane put it.
“The police were called by management,” he told KDVR. “Her mother was dying. She was depressed, and she made some offhand statement about ‘Things are going so great, I feel like I should drive my car off a cliff.'”
According to the lawsuit, O’Neal told New Creations staff members at her door to go away. When deputies arrived, she had been preparing for a bath when deputies arrived. She said she was naked, and told them to leave, the lawsuit stated. From the complaint:
Instead of leaving Plaintiff’s residence, or even shutting the door and giving her a few moments to dress, the three male officers—dressed in full uniform and equipped with sidearms, handcuffs, Tasers and expandable batons—remained inside her apartment with the door open while she stood stark naked and screamed at them to leave, yelling loudly and clearly throughout the encounter, “Nobody invited you in!” “You were not invited! I did not let you in!” “You need to go outside!” and “You go outside my door and talk to me!”
She denied wanting to harm herself. According to the complaint, deputies retaliated against her for speaking up for herself: They handcuffed her, arrested her, threatened to tase her, jailed her instead of taking her to a hospital or have her evaluated for her mental health, actually tased her, and applied a “hypoglossal pressure point.” The plaintiff said she was naked except for a blanket and spit mask while in custody.
[Screengrab via KDVR]
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