Idaho Springs has agreed to pay $7 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit against a former police officer and the department after he used a Taser on Michael Clark without warning, requiring the 75-year-old man to be taken to a hospital.
The settlement stems from a federal lawsuit filed last year after former Officer Nicholas Hanning used Taser on Clark less than a minute from when he opened his front door on May 30, 2021, while holding a “Hawaiian sword,” but after he put down the weapon. Clark fell backward hitting a chair and then the ground. Hanning then put his knee on top of Clark’s neck, the lawsuit alleges, placing pressure that deprived him of oxygen, prolonged his loss of consciousness and increased his risk of death.
The settlement is the largest in state history for a civil rights case not involving wrongful death, Clark’s attorney, Sarah Schielke, said in announcing the settlement Wednesday morning.
Clark suffered a stroke and permanent cognitive impairments and lost nearly all of his independence, Schielke said. He is no longer able to drive a car or cook for himself and now uses a wheelchair, she said.
Hanning was fired by the department and was charged with third-degree assault on an at-risk person. Hanning pleaded guilty in December to misdemeanor assault under a deal in which he agreed he would never again work as a police officer in Colorado.
The settlement does not admit liability on behalf of the city, but was reached “for economic reasons and to bring closure to all involved,” the city said in a statement.
“The city hopes that the settlement can bring some peace of mind to Mr. Clark and his family, and that the monies paid toward settlement will be available to cover any and all medical needs Mr. Clark may have moving forward,” the city said.
The lawsuit also named another officer, Ellie Summers, who was disciplined and no longer works for the city, the city said in a news release.
Clark’s daughter, Cynthia Flageolle, said she had mixed emotions about the settlement.
“Most people would expect us to say we are happy and excited about this,” she said. “We would be most happy if he could have his old life back.”
Flageolle said the settlement has provided relief in that the family will be able to take care of Clark’s medical needs, and the stress of the case can be off her father’s mind.
The settlement can’t, however, bring back Clark’s quality of life, Flageolle said. Her father now requires 24-hour supervision. “He’s not even able to transfer from his bed to a wheelchair without assistance.”
Schielke provided this bodycam video of Clark being tased to the media. Warning: It contains disturbing footage.
Clear Creek Courant reporter Olivia Jewell Love contributed to this report.