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Colorado Springs church claims police targeted its members and ignored reported crimes

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Members of the Colorado Springs Fellowship Church allege that officers in the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) ignored their reports of theft and possession of a firearm, and instead started a "one-sided investigation" against the church. The predominantly black church believes its members were targeted for their religion and race.

In a federal lawsuit filed last week against CSPD and District Attorney Michael Allen, the church members say they were trying to help a family in need, the situation turned hostile and when the church called police, the officers "ignored the evidence."

The 23-page lawsuit accuses CSPD and the El Paso County DA's office of violating church members civil and religious rights.

Church Vice President Lamont Banks spoke with 13 Investigates about the case.

"It was so outrageous, so without merit, we felt that this was a personal attack against the church and its parishioners," Banks said.

The case centers around what happened at an apartment the church paid for and let a struggling family stay at. Members of the church claim that they helped a family with housing and provided them a car to use.

However, in August 2020, the Fellowship Church learned that the family was in violation of the lease for related to threatening someone in the apartment complex with a gun and "interfering with, disturbing, or threatening the rights, comfort, health, safety, convenience, quiet enjoyment, management, and use of the community by us, other residents and occupants and any of their guests, agents, invitees, or the general public."

The church said it advised the family of the lease violation and gave them a 30-day notice to move out, stating that they needed to leave the $20,000 worth of furniture and other church property inside when they left. When the 30 days passed, the family was still there. Church members went to the property to change the locks. The lawsuit claims the family granted them permission to enter the apartment.

Shortly after, the lawsuit says tenant Nicholas Gainer reportedly went to the bedroom and returned "brandishing a firearm in a threatening and aggressive manner." The lawsuit says Gainer's son also threatened church members with a baseball bat, waving it around in a "threatening and violent manner."

The church members say in their lawsuit that they left and called police, giving them the report of what happened. The plaintiffs claim that when officers arrived, they conducted an investigation "with one goal only: to establish the named individual Plaintiffs ... had all committed violations of the Colorado penal statute, notwithstanding and ignoring any and all evidence to the contrary."

Several church members were charged with felony crimes including burglary and stalking related to that encounter at the apartment.

According to the lawsuit, the church members claim that CSPD Detective Brian Corrado "sought to expand his investigation with no legal, factual, or rational basis whatsoever into some fabricated allegations of financial mismanagement by the Colorado Springs Fellowship Church."

The church members also say that the CSPD officers didn't record audio on their body-worn cameras "for extended periods of time material to the investigation."

The suit claims that investigators ignored evidence that would have cleared the church members. At the same time, the lawsuit claims that police never fully investigated the report against Nicholas Gainer for prohibited use of a weapon or endangering the safety and welfare of a child, and no charges were filed against Gainer for the incident in August or for the alleged theft $20,000 of items from the church.

"They looked the other way and they did nothing. And to this day they have not been arrested. They have not been charged. That's unequal justice," Banks said.

An attorney for Colorado Springs Fellowship Church wrote, "Defendants racially profiled the Plaintiffs and assumed, at least partly, because of their race, that they presented an enhanced threat to public safety."

The church tells 13 Investigates it is fighting the criminal charges brought against its members. The lawsuit is asking for an unspecified amount of monetary relief and training for police and prosecutors to prevent a similar situation from happening again.

The 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office said it would be inappropriate to comment as the criminal case against the involved church members is ongoing. CSPD did not respond to our request for comment.

Colorado Springs / Investigations / Local News / News / Video

Andrew McMillan

Andrew is the Digital Content Director for KRDO.com. Learn more about Andrew here.

Chelsea Brentzel

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

Comments

15 Comments

  1. Sounds like they became bad landlords and violated several laws and now they are crying about it.

  2. Interesting how nothing in here said the police made any comment about the race of those there at the time, but the church and the attorneys assume this is racially motivated due to inaction??? Sounds like to me they are wanting to keep the race war going, what kind of a church does this? This is not a church that will survive if they keep this up…. Sounds like to me they are maybe part of that loser group that steals money all in the name of race.

    1. You may be right. That church, and the family that runs it, has a lengthy history of financial mismanagement, including some that have no direct connection with the church. And whenever their actions have been questioned in the past, they attempt to deflect questions with the “race” card because they are an all-Black organization.

  3. This church has been doing this CRAP for years. This is a complete mockery. How is this racially motivated when EVERYONE Involved is black lol. Even the people that they tried to evict are black. The only white person included was Michelle, well there goes y’all lawsuit… What kind of “Christians” are these people?

  4. If you’re renting a place out, you don’t have the right as a landlord to just go into it without notice.

    And everyone above is spot on, they’re trying to play the race card.

  5. I have to say that that church has it’s history and that even as a Black man myself I’ve personally had a bad experience there. The idea of being a church and just giving back should have been enough but I must also say I’ve had CSPD try to charge me with crimes after being a victim on plenty of accusations. There’s probably truth to both sides but it’s all up to what the law determines… not the church, not the tenant, not CSPD, not all of the commenters, but the law. Who was at fault depends a lot on what legal contracts were signed and by whom…

    1. Agreed. But there are reasonable expectations of any institution legally setting themselves up as a church, and this particular one appears to not meet those expectations.

  6. This is why a Church has a compassion fund or some other kind of setup where the immediate needs can be met without legal entanglements. Pay for a hotel stay for the immediate need; then direct the people to already established institutions that can help in the long term. Never give anything that you expect to be returned.

  7. Too often people get into landlord/tenant agreements, even informal ones, then things go sour and the landlord wants the police to remedy the problem the landlord created. Police are not in the CIVIL law enforcement business. It sounds like this church is angry because CSPD is not doing what the church demands when this is a civil situation. Maybe the church needs to get out of the real estate business and find other methods for helping people.

  8. And this is the reason churches should be taxed like a business. These pop up walmart churches are just a way for someone to get rich without paying taxes.

  9. The Colorado Springs Fellowship Church has been nothing but good and fair to people in this community and has always stood for what is good and for what is right. It has always received backlash from people who don’t like the truth. It remains to be said that this church stands for nothing but integrity for over 30 years and will continue to do so. God bless!

  10. Pastor Rose Banks and the Colorado
    everything possible to make lives better for other people who can’t do for them self. Reaching out making lives better doing that that is not even required of a pastor or a church to do. Over the last 5 or 6 years military Sunday some lucky soldiers get to go home with a $1000 in their pocket, loving kindness act helping family doing Christmas time who can’t do for themselves another good deed
    of loving kindness.

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