Gun-carrying man wrongfully arrested at Pridefest awarded $23,500

By Lisa Walton, The Gazette Updated: December 12, 2013 at 7:02 am • Published: December 11, 2013 | 8:45 pm 0

A man wrongly arrested for openly carrying a gun at gay pride celebration in Acacia Park last summer was awarded $23,500 by the city, according to a settlement agreement obtained by the Gazette in open records request Wednesday.

The agreement, signed Oct. 28, settles a lawsuit filed by James Sorensen against police, who arrested him July 21, 2012 for violating a law banning guns in parks that had been repealed in 2003. At the time, police spokeswoman Barbara Miller attributed the mistake to outdated information on a 40-page "cheat sheet" that officers used as a primer on Colorado Springs laws. Sorensen, who said he spent about an hour in custody before he was ticketed, also alleged that he wasn't read his Miranda rights, and said that a police supervisor mishandled a complaint form when he requested that police investigate the arrest. The settlement agreement releases the city from claims made by Sorensen including unlawful arrest, unreasonable search and seizure, unreasonable violation of speech rights, unreasonable violation of the right to bear arms, failure to train and failure to supervise. According to the document, Sorensen must keep the terms of the agreement confidential.

After the July 2012 arrest, police conducted an "expedited review" of the incident, openly admitted that the arrest had been made in error, and dismissed Sorensen's ticket.

Sorensen filed the lawsuit against Colorado Springs police in April this year. Though police have admitted to the error, the document reads that the settlement agreement "does not constitute an admission by city defendants of any liability, wrongdoing, or violation of any law." It further states that "City Defendants expressly deny any wrongdoing of any kind whatsoever in its actions and dealings with the Plaintiff."

Sorensen, an Army veteran who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, told The Gazette in August 2012 that he has been a gun rights advocate since he was a boy when his father openly carried a gun. He said he often carries his gun to large public events and had no problems that day at the gay pride celebration, called PrideFest. He was leaving PrideFest when a police officer spotted a 40-caliber pistol on his hip and stopped him for questioning. Sorensen contested the stop, and after heated exchanges with several officers, was ultimately arrested and cited. Sorensen's partner captured the arrest in 13-minute video, in which Sorensen can be heard questioning the officers' motives.

"This is because I'm gay," he tells police. "I'm gay and carrying a weapon and I threaten you, don't I?" In the video, which captured national attention when it was posted online, the then 24-year-old complained that there were no signs in the park banning guns, to which one officer replied, "Sir, ignorance of the law is not an affirmative defense."

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