A grandmother in Colorado who was subject to brutal treatment by the police while naked and in her own home has received a $2.4 million settlement.
Carolyn O’Neal, 49, was drawing a bath for herself at her apartment in a sober living facility in 2014 and posed no danger to herself or others when police arrived at her apartment to do a welfare check after reports that she was distraught because her mother was dying.
After O’Neal sent the police away, the deputies from the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office entered her domicile using a set of keys. The woman immediately began yelling at the deputies, all of whom were men, to leave her home because she was naked and had no intent to harm herself. At that point, the officers pinned the 123-pound woman down onto her bed before handcuffing her and placing her under arrest, according to Denver Post. The officers covered her in a blanket before walking her out in broad daylight to the squad car.
When O’Neal was taken into custody, her ordeal only worsened as jail staff roughly tackled her to the ground and bound her to a chair with restraints to secure her limbs, shoulders and waist. Officers then placed a spit mask over her face before keeping her strapped to the chair for four hours, during which she was only covered by a smock that kept sliding down and exposing her naked body.
At some point, deputies released her legs from the restraints before she was strapped back in. When O’Neal resisted, the deputies applied pressure point techniques and even used a Taser on her, twice, leaving clear burn marks on her leg.
It took about 12 hours before O’Neal was finally given jail clothing.
Prosecutors accused O’Neal with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct during her time in the jail, but a judge later dismissed the charges and found that there was no cause for her initial arrest to begin with.
In her lawsuit against the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, the deputies were alleged to have arrested O’Neal for her past protests over being arrested. The lawsuit also alleged that the sheriff’s office had utterly failed to train its deputies or jail staff on how to properly handle people suffering mental health issues while also having “created, fostered, maintained and tolerated an environment and culture of law enforcement brutality and deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of its citizens and residents.”
A jury eventually decided the case in O’Neal’s favor, awarding her $3.6 million last April, which was eventually reduced by a judge to $2.1 million.
The ruling was challenged by both O’Neal and the County of Fremont, but they eventually settled for $2.4 million after the county dropped its appeal.
The embattled Fremont County Sheriff’s Office has faced a number of lawsuits in recent years. Jim Beicker, the sheriff at the time of O’Neal’s arrest, resigned in the year of that incident after a large number of his staff were placed on leave for misconduct and an effort to recall him failed.
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