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Colorado bike fitter's family files wrongful death lawsuit against police

Published July 6, 2021

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (BRAIN) — The family of a professional bike fitter and former Colorado Cyclist product line manager who died in custody last year is suing the city of Colorado Springs and four of its police officers.

The lawsuit, filed June 22 in Colorado District Court by Chad Burnett's aunt, says police unlawfully entered Burnett's home, arrested him without a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and used excessive force. It goes on to state the officers failed to use the department's Community Response Team during a mental health crisis situation and didn't provide adequate medical care, leaving him handcuffed in a prone position after being repeatedly Tased.

The family seeks economic damages to be established at a jury trial and compensatory damages, including emotional pain and suffering, attorney's fees and costs, and medical bills.

"This case involves a story that is becoming all too familiar in Colorado and across the nation: Police respond to a 911 call about an individual experiencing a mental health crisis," the lawsuit's introduction begins. "Instead of involving a crisis intervention team, police respond with force; and instead of receiving psychiatric treatment, the individual is killed. The officers' actions in this case not only resulted in tragedy, however — they were also clearly unlawful. ..."

Burnett, 49, died on May 24 after police responded to his house following a disturbance call from neighbors who said he was threatening another neighbor with a knife. Body cam footage showed officers first speaking with Burnett outside his home before chasing him inside and tackling him. Resisting arrest, officers repeatedly Tasered Burnett.

About nine minutes later, Burnett was limp. Two officers checked for a pulse and both said they felt one. Six minutes later, they rolled him on his back and three officers were shown taking turns doing chest compressions as the video ended. Burnett was pronounced dead at the scene.

In August, the El Paso County District Attorney's Office announced it would not charge the officers. The 4th Judicial office found that officers used "reasonable and appropriate" force. The district attorney's report said heart disease, which was noted in the El Paso County Coroner's report but unknown to officers, contributed to the death.

According to the coroner's report, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Burnett died after police used a Taser when he resisted arrest. The coroner said because the death occurred during the altercation and involved a Taser, it was homicide but did not necessarily imply criminal intent.

The report said Burnett died "as a result of sudden death associated with physical altercation, Taser deployment, cardiac hypertrophy with myocardial fibrosis, and bipolar disorder featuring acute psychotic episode."

He suffered blunt force injuries, including a muscular hemorrhage to the side and front of his head, and abrasions and contusions to the face, torso and upper and lower extremities, according to the coroner's report. Alcohol also was in his system postmortem, but the amount was not listed.

Burnett left Colorado Cyclist in November 2019 to start a mobile bike-fitting business, Chaz Pro Bike Fit. On the Chaz Pro Bike Fit website, Burnett said he was a 20-year industry veteran.

Chad Burnett.

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