Government officials for the City of Colorado Springs, Colo., agreed last month to settle a lawsuit initiated by James Sorensen against four sergeants and three officers who detained and arrested him in 2012 at the city PrideFest for possessing an unconcealed firearm, despite the repeal in 2003 of state laws which prohibited the legal possession of firearms at city parks. The settlement paid Sorensen $23,500.
Sorensen’s partner videotaped the arrest.
After his arrest, Sorensen said, “I knew the law. I knew that it was legal for me to carry. My rights were trampled on.”
City police said that the mistake was a result of the criminal manual or “cheat sheet” that officers use that, at the time, stated that it was still illegal to open carry in a city park. Police Chief Pete Carey ordered an internal review after Sorensen’s arrest and said four months later in a statement that “[p]olicy violations were discovered and appropriate administrative action was taken.” The department stated that a line-by-line “scrub” of the cheat sheet was completed, and Carey said that the department “made updates to reference guides used and instituted more periodic reviews of these documents.”
KUSA Television news reporters in Denver published a part of the city’s settlement agreement which stated that “[p]laintiff recognizes and agrees that this confidentiality provision was a significant inducement for City Defendants to enter into this Agreement. … Any violation of this section shall be considered a material breach of this Agreement, and Plaintiff will be subject to repayment to City Defendants of the consideration set forth herein without restatement of the claims.”
The agreement stated also that it “does not constitute an admission by City Defendants of any liability, wrongdoing, or violation of any law. Further, City Defendants expressly deny any wrongdoing of any kind whatsoever in its actions and dealings with Plaintiff.”
In 2007, Stonewall Shooting Sports of Utah owner David Nelson was similarly detained, questioned and removed by a Salt Lake City Corp. police officer from the Utah Pride Festival for possessing an unconcealed firearm despite state laws which protect the legal possession of firearms at government lands and facilities such as city parks. Nelson filed a complaint and claim for $25,000, and received a verbal apology from city police Chief Chris Burbank for the “mistake.” Nelson has since lobbied for the repeal of the festival policy which prohibits firearms.