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Man sues Colorado Springs after wrongful open-carry arrest

Published On: Apr 10 2013 09:43:01 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 10 2013 11:27:44 PM CDT

A man wrongly arrested for carrying an open gun has filed a lawsuit against the city of Colorado Springs. TARGET 13 broke the story of James Sorensen's arrest at the city's gay pride festival in July.


A man wrongly arrested for carrying an open gun has filed a lawsuit against the city of Colorado Springs.

TARGET 13 broke the story of James Sorensen's caught-on-camera arrest at the city's gay pride festival at Acacia Park in July, the day after the Aurora theater shooting.

Sorensen was detained, handcuffed and put in a holding cell for an hour because he was openly carrying his gun. Four Colorado Springs police sergeants and three officers were unaware that it's legal to open carry in city parks and has been since gun laws changed statewide in 2003.

Sorensen's lawsuit was filed Tuesday and names all of the sergeants and officers involved -- Lance Lazoff, Tim Stankey, Roger Vargasen, Larry Morgan, Joe Brown, Clay Sunada and Bob Peltz -- as well as CSPD Chief Pete Carey. Sorensen said the suit comes after failed attempts to negotiate terms with the city.

"We decided to file suit because we want to better protect our rights," he said, "and make sure everyone knows they can't just treat citizens like crap."

"It's a number of rights that (police) violated, and the fact they're not really willing to take responsibility for that means we had to file a lawsuit," said Sorenen's attorney Nelson Boyle.

TARGET 13 found part of the problem was a mistake in the criminal manual or "cheat sheet" officers were using that showed it was still illegal to open carry in parks.

CSPD realized the mistake and dropped all charges against Sorensen, but he wanted more than that, including an apology from the officers and more police training on gun laws.

"We just couldn't meet in the middle anywhere," Sorensen said of talks with the city.  "And they didn't want to even acknowledge the fact that we wanted extra training."

The suit doesn't specify a money amount that Sorensen is seeking.

In November, CSPD completed an internal review on his arrest and Chief Carey said in a statement, "Policy violations were discovered and appropriate administrative action was taken."

A CSPD spokesperson said the department would not comment on whether officers had been disciplined because it was a "personnel matter," and information not required to be released under the Colorado Open Records Act.

TARGET 13 also learned that CSPD created a committee to review the cheat sheet for other errors.

An open records request revealed two other repealed statutes/ordinances were mistakenly listed as being in effect, one that required licenses for massage parlors and another pertaining to criminal libel.

"There were other ordinances or statutes that had been repealed and relocated to a different section of the code/law," read a response from CSPD. "There were instances in which the incorrect statute was listed. There were municipal ordinances with an incorrect fine amount listed."

CSPD went on to explain that a line-by-line "scrub" of the cheat sheet was completed and the document was adjusted to be more user friendly. CSPD says the cheat sheet will no longer be printed by officers and only available on the CSPD intranet web page.

"With no printed versions available, and only a single source for the guide (the web page), officers will always be referencing the most recent version of the reference guide," said the CSPD statement.

CSPD said it also hyperlinked every statute and ordinance in the document to the Colorado Legal Resources and Sterling Codifiers web pages so officers could easily access the official statute or ordinance language.


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