Westminster police threw 78-year-old to ground, shocked him with Taser, lawsuit alleges

Westminster police threw a 78-year-old man to the ground inside a Walmart then shocked him with a Taser to the point of “significant bleeding,” the man alleges in a federal excessive-force lawsuit filed against the city and two officers over the 2020 incident.

Clayton Shriver, in his lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Denver, says he was experiencing a “mental health episode and/or medical crisis” when Westminster police Officers Michael Owen and Tyler Farson violently arrested him on charges of trespassing, obstructing a police officer and resisting arrest at a Walmart.

All charges against Shriver, who is now 79 and had no prior criminal record, ultimately were dismissed, according to the lawsuit.

Westminster police spokeswoman Cheri Spottke declined to say Tuesday whether Owen and Farson remain on the force.

“We are aware of that pending litigation, but due to the fact that it is pending litigation, we cannot comment on the matter,” Spottke said.

City officials did not return a message from The Denver Post seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Shriver’s lawsuit comes four months after Loveland agreed to pay $3 million to settle an excessive-force claim brought by the family of Karen Garner, a 73-year-old woman with dementia who was violently arrested by police in that city in 2020 after she walked out of a Walmart with $13.88 in unpaid merchandise. The Loveland case prompted significant outrage and led to the criminal prosecution of the former officers and a third-party investigation of the police department.

The Westminster incident took place May 15, 2020, at a McDonald’s restaurant inside the Walmart at 7155 Sheridan Blvd. Shriver had sat down in a part of the McDonald’s that had been closed to seating because he felt ill while shopping, according to the lawsuit. McDonald’s employees told Shriver he needed to purchase something or leave, according to the complaint, but Shriver couldn’t understand what the staff was saying and subsequently began raising his voice.

Shriver tried asking for medical help, but couldn’t speak clearly at the time due to his condition, as he suffers from medical and emotional health issues such as “multiple closed head injuries and traumatic brain injuries,” memory loss, hearing loss and a mood disorder, according to the lawsuit.

After Owen, the police officer, was summoned by Walmart staff, Shriver tried to explain he was suffering from a medical condition, according to the lawsuit. Owen had trouble understanding Shriver, who was speaking loudly, according to the complaint.

Shriver thought he had been told to leave, and when he stood up and attempted to walk out of the McDonald’s, Owen grabbed him and “violently threw him to the ground,” according to the lawsuit.

As Owen tried to handcuff Shriver, the 78-year-old “stiffened up and attempted to roll over” due to the pain, according to the lawsuit. Owen then used a Taser to shock Shriver in the stomach and thigh, the complaint alleged.

The lawsuit states Shriver cursed at Owen and tried to remove the probes from his body, at which point Farson arrived at the scene and began assisting Owen in arresting Shriver, helping force Shriver’s arms behind his back. According to the lawsuit, Owen used the Taser again, hitting Shriver’s back and buttocks, causing “severe pain and bleeding” where the probes hit.

After the second use of the Taser, Owen and Farson handcuffed Shriver before calling medical personnel to assess Shriver, according to the lawsuit. After being examined by paramedics, Shriver was transported by ambulance to a hospital for further evaluation, according to the complaint.

Shriver continues to receive care for the physical injuries he sustained “as a result of the excessive force” by Owen and Farson, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit targets Owen with claims of excessive force and malicious prosecution, alleges Farson failed to intervene and says both committed false arrest. The suit also includes a claim of failure to train/supervise against the city of Westminster.

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