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Family of man who died after being tackled by mental crisis team sues paramedic, police officer

DENVER (AP) — Members of a mental health response team sent to help a man who was having a “psychotic breakdown” instead killed him by tackling him and leaving him handcuffed, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by the man’s family.

The lawsuit over the 2022 death of Kevin Dizmang in Colorado Springs was filed against the team’s paramedic, Nick Fisher, and police officer Sean Reed. It identifies Fisher as the person seen taking Dizmang, 63, to the ground in body camera footage released last year by lawyers for Dizmang’s family after his death was ruled a homicide and raised questions about how police handle encounters with people experiencing mental health crises.

Other body camera footage taken at the hospital as staff tried to save Dizmang’s life shows Fisher joking about how he relied on his high school football experience to bring Dizmang to the ground, according to the lawsuit. When someone compliments him on his “good form”, someone responds “Well, not so much” in the footage.

Fisher resigned from the department in June 2023, but fire department spokesperson Ashley Franco said she could not provide details about his departure because it was a personnel matter.

Reed still works for the police department but is in a different role because of his own choice, department spokesperson Ira Cronin said.

Both the fire and police departments declined to comment on the lawsuit, and neither Reed nor Fisher could be located for comment. Someone who answered the phone at a possible telephone number for Reed hung up when contacted by The Associated Press.

The team responded after Dizmang’s family reported that he was experiencing severe symptoms related to his history of PTSD and schizophrenia, with his ex-wife stating that she feared he was possibly trying to kill himself by walking into traffic on a busy street near his house, according to the lawsuit.

The body camera footage shows an officer, identified by the lawsuit as Reed, telling Dizmang to put his hands behind his back while in the street, as others try to stop cars. The video shows Dizmang resisting attempts by the officer to put handcuffs on him before he is taken to the ground by a man dressed in red identified in the lawsuit as Fisher.

It’s hard to see what is happening, but Fisher is shown leaning on top of Dizmang’s upper body, obscuring his head, as Dizmang lies face down. The lawsuit alleges Fisher placed him in a chokehold. Dizmang soon stops moving. After he is turned face up, others around him call on Dizmang to talk to them, but there is no response.

The lawsuit alleges Reed contributed to Dizmang’s death by not telling Fisher to stop “choking” Dizmang and also keeping him in handcuffs long after he became unresponsive.

According to the autopsy report, Dizmang died as the result of cardiac arrest that occurred while he was being restrained and while he was acutely intoxicated by methamphetamine and suffering from health problems such as obesity and asthma. The Jan. 6, 2023, report signed by five doctors concluded that the manner of Dizmang’s death was determined to be a homicide because of “the contribution of physical restraint to the cause of death.”

“He didn’t die of natural causes. Those people who came to help him, killed him,” said Harry Daniels, one of the family’s lawyers.

Dizmang’s daughter, Kenda James, who is a paramedic herself, said she told her mother to call 911 for help for her father and advised her to explain that he was in a mental health crisis.

“It’s really unfortunate that we requested help and ended up in a homicide situation. It makes us really, really feel like we should have never made a call for assistance,” she said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit.

The district attorney’s office found the actions of the officer and the paramedic were justified and no criminal charges were filed.

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