Death of Colo. man stopped by mental health team ruled homicide
By Elise Schmelzer The Denver Post COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — An unarmed Colorado man who was experiencing…
By Elise Schmelzer
The Denver Post
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — An unarmed Colorado man who was experiencing a mental health crisis last November died after being handcuffed and held on the ground by a police team dedicated to responding to mental health calls — a death that has since been ruled a homicide.
Kevin Dizmang, 63, died Nov. 15 after being contacted by a Colorado Springs community response team comprised of a police officer, a fire department paramedic and a mental health clinician. The team was dispatched after receiving a call about a man experiencing a crisis and destroying the home where he lived.
The El Paso County Coroner’s Office determined Dizmang died of a heart attack but ruled his death a homicide because of how he was restrained. Methamphetamine intoxication, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an enlarged heart and other health conditions contributed to his death, the coroner found.
Dizmang’s family hopes local authorities will hold the paramedic and police officer responsible for Dizmang’s death, attorney Harry Daniels said Wednesday.
“The family wants justice,” he said.
The Colorado Springs Police Department has not released the names of the community response team members.
Body camera footage released Wednesday by Daniels shows Dizmang walking in the middle of Mount View Lane in Colorado Springs and speaking unintelligibly as the police officer arrived on scene. The officer told Dizmang to put his hands behind his back and said he wasn’t under arrest.
Dizmang didn’t comply but the officer was able to guide him to the side of the road. The officer, growing increasingly frustrated, continued to tell Dizmang to put his hands behind his back and grabbed Dizmang’s arms as he tried to handcuff him, the video shows.
Once out of the road, the paramedic took Dizmang to the ground. The officer and the paramedic then held Dizmang to the ground, with the paramedic draping his body across Dizmang’s prone body, the video shows.
“We’re here to help you,” the paramedic said.
Dizmang remained prone for about a minute before the officer and paramedic rolled him over to his side. Dizmang stopped responding to officers while prone. After they moved Dizmang to a sitting position, a bystander can be heard on the video telling Dizmang to breathe. Dizmang stopped responding to people speaking to him.
Paramedics started CPR after they placed Dizmang on a stretcher and in an ambulance. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
The officer and paramedic were placed on paid administrative leave while Dizmang’s death was investigated by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, according to a news release issued by the sheriff’s office on Nov. 16.
The investigation has since been turned over to the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Colorado Springs police spokesman Robert Tornabene said.
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