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Brent Thompson, left, with his father David, center and his sister, Adrianne. Brent Thompson was fatally struck by a vehicle Feb. 18 along I-25 in Fort Collins after a Larimer County Sheriff's Office deputy tased him as he ran into oncoming traffic. (Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, Contributed)

Headlights of an oncoming SUV barreling down Interstate 25 were in plain sight as a Colorado deputy fired a Taser at a 28-year-old man who ran into the road and was fatally struck, body camera footage released Wednesday shows. 

Five seconds after shocking Brent Thompson, Larimer County Sheriff’s deputy Lorenzo Lujan is heard saying “Shit, shit,” before the driver of the SUV honks and hits Thompson lying on his back, the footage shows. (Editor’s note: The released footage is graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers). 

Larimer County Sheriff John Feyen said his department grieved Thompson’s death, but defended the deputy’s “split-second” decision Feb. 18 to deploy his Taser at Thompson as he crossed the interstate. Thompson was suspected of providing a fake name to deputies after he was pulled over about 9:15 p.m. for expired registration. 

An internal review of Lujan’s actions found that the deputy acted in line with the department’s policies, Feyan said in a recorded briefing of the incident posted online Wednesday. Last week, the county’s district attorney said Lujan used poor judgment, but cleared Lujan of criminal charges.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Thompson’s choices created a potentially no-win situation,” the sheriff said. “Simply letting him run away could have resulted in deadly consequences for travelers on the highway and the deputy was forced to make a choice: act and try to stop the suspect or stand by passively and just hope no innocent people got hurt.”

But Thompson’s family is calling for Lujan’s immediate firing and for the Colorado attorney general to review District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin’s decision not to press charges against the deputy.

“He didn’t deserve to be murdered like that,” Karen Thompson, Brent’s mother, said in an interview with The Colorado Sun last week. 

“The tasering of an individual in the middle of an interstate highway at night is criminal and reprehensible conduct and has no place in law enforcement. The Thompson family is left with no choice but to seek justice from a civil jury,” attorneys with Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, who are representing Brent’s family, said in a statement Wednesday. 

A screenshot from bodyworn camera footage released by the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office shows Deputy Lorenzo Lujan fire his Taser at Brent Thompson as he runs onto Interstate 25 Feb. 18. Thompson was hit with the Taser probes 5.6 seconds before being struck by the Ford Explorer traveling down the interstate at night, according to a report completed by a multiagency team of investigators.

Body camera footage shows Thompson pivot as Lujan tells him he is under arrest. Thompson is seen running across southbound lanes and across a grassy median, before he jumps over a guardrail and onto northbound lanes. Lujan fires his Taser as Thompson crosses the right lane and Thompson collapses in the road. 

According to investigators who reconstructed the crash, Thompson was hit with the Taser probes 5.6 seconds before being struck by the Ford Explorer, which was likely 533 to 615 feet away at the time. The driver who hit Thompson was driving 65-70 mph.

A report said the impact came less than 1 second after the Taser completed its 5-second shock cycle. 

“Given the distance and obstructions,” it was unlikely that Lujan would have been able to see the vehicle before deploying his Taser, investigators wrote in a critical incident review, led by the Fort Collins Police Department.

After Thompson was hit, Lujan pulled Thompson to the shoulder to provide aid before paramedics took over, according to the sheriff’s office, but the body camera footage released by the office stops before Thompson was struck. 

In unedited body-worn camera footage released by Thompson family attorneys, Thompson’s body rolls after being struck by the SUV as Lujan stands on the side of the road. The deputy puts Thompson in handcuffs, drags his body to the side and performs CPR. 

The 28-year-old died in the hospital, authorities said. 

In an interview with investigators, Lujan said he believed Thompson was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Later, deputies found drug paraphernalia and narcotics in his car. An autopsy showed Thompson had fentanyl in his system.

Thompson’s family criticized the sheriff’s office for including Brent’s criminal history and drug use in its investigation of his death. 

“Blaming Brent for his death is callous and dishonest,” Thompson family attorneys said Wednesday. “At the time that Brent ran from law enforcement, he was only suspected of committing the crimes of driving with expired registration and giving a false name to law enforcement.”

Olivia Prentzel is a general assignment writer based in Colorado Springs for The Colorado Sun, covering breaking news, wildfires and all things interesting impacting Coloradans. Before joining The Sun, Olivia covered criminal justice for The Colorado Springs Gazette. She’s also worked at newspapers in New Orleans and New Jersey, where she grew up. After graduating college, she lived in a tiny, rural town in southern Madagascar for three years as a Peace Corps volunteer. When not writing, Olivia enjoys backpacking and climbing Colorado’s tallest peaks.