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El Paso County deputies face brutality lawsuit after inmate death ruled a homicide

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Explosive allegations against El Paso County Jail staff and the El Paso County District Attorney's office are coming to light after a federal excessive force lawsuit was filed this week.

The allegations are detailed in an extensive federal claim filed on behalf of former El Paso County jail inmate Deramus Lemuel. Lemuel, 38, died in August 2018 after being arrested for a parole violation. When Lemuel was pulled over by El Paso County deputies, he ingested methamphetamine, according to his attorney. He was transported to the hospital and taken to jail in the early morning hours of August 1, 2018.

KRDO obtained jail cell video of the incident at the heart of the lawsuit that Lemuel's family believes led to his death.

“The video demonstrates quite clearly that Mr. Lemuel was not dangerous," Attorney Darold Killmer said. "Obviously he was unarmed he had been transported to the hospital, and he was handcuffed. And they brought him into the cell handcuffed with multiple deputies.”

Killmer said that during the incident with El Paso County jailers, it's evident that Lemuel is still feeling the effects of the methamphetamine he ingested. Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jackie Kirby previously said in 2018, that jailers restrained Lemuel because he was uncooperative. Kirby said Lemuel tried to spit at officers, so they put a hood over his face, which she says is a standard precaution.

“They do have medical care providers at the jail. And what should have happened is they should have provided this man with treatment. Visually you could tell he’s still sick. Instead, the jail decided to force him into compliance with every little order they gave," Killmer claimed.

The El Paso County coroner's office previously ruled that Lemuel's death was a homicide after he took drugs and deputies restrained him.

"In this case, the coroner had no doubt Deramus’ death was a homicide," Killmer said. "Even though that was a clear finding by the coroner's office, no authorities did anything about it.”

Killmer says the goal filing of the family's lawsuit is to correct a wrong by the El Paso County jailers. He believes the issue stems from a cultural issue within the agency.

“The deputies there are trained by the deputies and command staff that if they want to use force on an inmate, they will use force. And the command staff there will have their back. They won’t discipline them. They certainly won’t terminate them," Killmer claimed.

Killmer also took aim at the track record of the El Paso County District Attorney's office on matters of excessive force and brutality by law enforcement.

"The district attorney in Colorado Springs definitely won’t ever bring charges against law enforcement officers. So, the entire system is rigged to allow this type of brutality to occur against citizens and for the officers to have no accountability whatsoever,” Killmer said. 

It's unclear what, if any, action was taken against the jailers involved. They weren't criminally charged, according to court records.

Killmer is grateful for the recent passage of Colorado's police accountability law; he thinks Lemuel's case demonstrates the importance of establishing more accountability for law enforcement.

"El Paso County has to know that this type of brutality has to stop," Killmer explained. "There have been several cases before which have cost the taxpayers of the county literally millions of dollars and yet the beat goes on. There's never any substantive change in the way people are changed or the type of people who are being hired. And things have to change, you can't just keep running the show this way."

The attorney is calling for an independent investigation into Lemuel's death.

The El Paso County Sheriff's office declined to comment on the pending litigation. KRDO also reached out to a spokesperson for the district attorney's office but has not yet received a response.

Meanwhile, Lemuel's wife, children and mother continue to grieve and say they are hopeful justice will come soon.

Colorado Springs / Local News

Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is an investigative reporter for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.

Comments

17 Comments

  1. Sounds like this losers caused his own death by taking meth and not following instructions. So the lesson here is don’t mess with meth and do as your told by people in authority and you will live longer.

    1. That sounds like a simple recipe.

      But difficult for some people.

      I’m supposed to feel sorry why? For something we abolished over a hundred years ago?

    2. “Do what the officer tells you. When he says get on the ground you get on the ground. When he says get on the train you get on the train. When he says get in the shower you get in the shower.”

      Pathetic bootlicker.

  2. This article, as many others have lately, fails to mention there is a difference between homicide and murder.If he would have followed the terms of his parole he would be alive. Like others his own actions ultimately led to his death.

  3. I am a “Minority” and I am alive today because:
    I was raised right by my parents.

    Never committed a crime.

    Don’t have a criminal history.

    Work and care for my family.

    On the rare, I mean very rare, chance I get pulled over I am polite and have all my documents and usually chat with the officer and get a warning.

    Respect authority and follow the laws.

    Must I go on?

    Yup still alive.

    1. I have never had any desire to do anything different than what you do.
      I don’t believe though, that people being incarcerated for a drug addiction
      should end up dying for that.
      That is not what the deputies are trained to do.
      Change the system.
      This not the last time a drug addict will be sent to jail.
      Address the issue or refuse them entrance.

      1. “Throw ‘em in the brig til he’s sober – throw ‘em in the brig til he’s sober – throw ‘em in the brig til he’s sober – early in the morning!”

      2. The system the system the system!!!!
        We gotta change it? Why because it does not work for criminals and drug addicts. No drug addict wants help! if so then the rehab centers would have a line around the block!!! Nobody forced them to do drugs and it is not society’s responsibility to fix them and use funds that could be better used elsewhere like education! That pot money seems to vanish every time they approve that.
        The system works fine if you abide by the rules of a society.

        Lobbies cry to decriminalize drug use like we want drugs out in the streets. Imagine what that would look like….I can help you, look at San Francisco and other Liberal Democrat run city.

        1. I know you had good parenting who raised you right and you believe that’s the reason why you have no criminal record but I think you need to realize the reason why the system needs to be changed is because at the time when it was adopted it wasn’t meant to help Black people. It works fine for you because they don’t hold the color of your skin against you when you have minor interactions with the police. Hear this from a Black man who was raised right and who follows the laws and has no criminal record. I have never been let off with a warning. The have tried to prosecute me for the most absurd reasons.

  4. For Willy Wonka; “Who do you blame when your kid is a brat…The mother and the father
    “. If this thug had not violated his parole, done meth and fought with law enforcement officer, he would still be alive. DO Not blame the cops.

  5. “When Lemuel was pulled over by El Paso County deputies, he ingested methamphetamine, according to his attorney. He was transported to the hospital and taken to jail in the early morning hours of August 1, 2018.”
    .
    Sounds like he perhaps shouldn’t have been released from the hospital if he was still having effects from the meth. Medical treatment should be continued until the effects are no longer a danger to the patient. It seems that may not have been the case here, although it’s difficult to determine with not having been there…

  6. Need more information but on the surface it looks like the officer could have handled the situation better. But homicide is a bit strong of a charge. Excessive use of force yes.

  7. If you have never watched the youtube video “Seattle is Dying” give it a watch…. This is where CO is headed. Looks like the dems and there touchy feely ways will doom us all.

  8. And here is a lawsuit where the plaintiff’s attorney is going to keep chanting “homicide” over and over, knowing that some potential jurors will hear that as “murder”.
    Coroner’s reports give cause and manner of death. In this case, cardiac arrest from the combination of the drug ingestion and fighting the deputies, and since other humans were involved, it is categorized as a homicide, which does not mean there was any wrongdoing, just that other humans had some influence on the death.
    Lemuel swallowed the meth to hide it. The hospital evaluated and cleared him for release to book into jail. The deputies are tasked with inprocessing prisoners, getting prints and pictures, making sure the prisoner is not carrying any drugs, money, or weapons into the jail. In the case of intoxicated prisoners, they may put them in isolation till they detox enough to process, but that still requires making sure they have no contraband and can be safely left in the cell. When a prisoner is combative, it is better to have more people restraining them then to use less people, but more force. Looking at the video, there isn’t anything apparent that could be done differently without creating more risk. That’s why no charges or disciplinary action took place.
    Maybe the hospital should have kept him, but then the hospital is dealing with a combative patient. As it is, who knows what was actually in the meth he ingested- cookers will use just about anything in a batch.

  9. Only thing “explosive” about the “charges” is KRDO’s desire to act like a big city media company and defer to anything that makes cops look bad and criminals look innocent. Their bias shows in the last line. Should the grieving family determine justice?

Comments are closed.