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Colorado Springs settles lawsuit after mistaken gun arrest

7:01 PM, Dec 10, 2013   |    comments
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COLORADO SPRINGS - The City of Colorado Springs has paid $23,500 to a man mistakenly arrested for carrying an open weapon.

James Sorensen sued the city after seven CSPD officers detained and arrested him at a gay pride festival in July 2012, a day after the Aurora theater shooting, after seeing the open gun on his hip. What happened was caught on camera by Sorensen's partner.

The four sergeants and three officers involved were unaware that it's legal to open carry in city parks and has been since gun laws changed statewide in 2003.

Police blamed the error on the criminal manual or "cheat sheet" that officers carry that, at the time, indicated that it was still illegal in Colorado Springs to open carry in a city park.

9NEWS obtained the city's settlement agreement with Sorensen through an open records request. Sorensen said he could not comment due to a confidentiality clause that reads in part:

"Plaintiff 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."

Last year, Sorensen said this of the situation: "I knew the law. I knew that it was legal for me to carry. My rights were trampled on."

Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey ordered an internal review after the incident, and four months later, said in a statement that "Policy violations were discovered and appropriate administrative action was taken." CSPD said 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."

Metropolitan State University criminal justice professor and former Arvada police officer Joseph Sandoval said the incident could have been much more costly for the city.

"A situation like this could turn very grave if you think about it," Sandoval said. "If someone, if James would have resisted to the point of pulling his gun on a police officer, there could have been a fatal mistake and it was uncalled for."

The settlement between Sorensen and the city also says that the agreement "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."

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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