Suit Accuses Colorado Fire Department of Ketamine-Related Civil Rights Violation

A Colorado man who was arrested following a traffic stop in 2019, has filed suit against a fire department medic and several police officers for their roles in his arrest. Steven Reycraft filed suit today in US District Court for the District of Colorado naming the Manitou Springs Fire Department, Paramedic Ashley Wardell, four Manitou Springs police officers, the City of Manitou Springs, and a doctor/medical director.

The suit accuses Wardell of wrongfully injecting him with versed and ketamine as he was being restrained by police officers. As explained in the complaint:

  • On September 24, 2019 at approximately 1 :20 PM at 351 Manitou Avenue, Officer Paul Van Bemden stopped Steven Reycraft when he had violated no traffic law.
  • Mr. Reycraft asked Officer Bemden to articulate his reasonable suspicion for the stop and to provide identification, but the Officer refused. ·
  • Mr. Reycraft explained that he would provide his own identification when the officers could explain what traffic law he had violated. Instead of explaining that, Officers Bemden, Strand, and Johnson roughly took him into custody causing extensive injury to Mr. Reycraft.
  • They threw him to the ground and caused him to hit his head, caused a head laceration, dislocated his shoulder, and hurt his elbow. Mr. Reycraft is disabled, so this treatment was extremely injurious.
  • It was excessive force.
  • Sgt. Sevene watched his officers behave in this manner and did not properly supervise.
  • Officers held Mr. Reycraft on the ground until paramedics arrived.
  • Ashley Wardell of the Manitou Springs Fire Department arrived and told police that she was going to sedate Mr. Reycraft, but said she would not give ketamine because it was not excited delirium.
  • Nevertheless, within the space of 17 minutes, Ms. Wardell administered two 2.5 MG shots of Midazolam (Versed) and one 300 MG shot of ketamine.
  • Although Mr. Reycraft was forcibly injected without his consent, police charged him with crimes for things he did after the drugs were administered.
  • Mr. Reycraft suffered extensive injuries, damages, and losses as a result of this denial of his right to medical consent and denial of his constitutional rights.

The suit alleges Reycraft’s civil rights were violated through the “deliberate indifference” of the defendants. The suit was filed by Reycraft pro-se. Here is a copy of the complaint:

By the way, we are seeing an uptick in lawsuits over the administration of ketamine. We are also seeing an uptick in prisoner suits filed against fire departments. This is the third pro se prisoner suit this week. Here are the other two.

These are in addition to the legal proceedings arising out of the death of Elijah McClain in Aurora, Colorado. That case has resulted in criminal charges against Aurora Fire Department two medics and a civil suit by McClain’s family. That case involved a ketamine injection that may have contributed to McLain’s death.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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