Police shootout victim Thomas Villanueva fears he may be paralyzed from the waist down, but says he's "glad to be alive." He talked about his ordeal at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Center on Thursday, February 8, 2018. Photo by Hannah Tran, The Gazette
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Thomas Villanueva is interviewed at UCHealth Memorial Hospital in February 2018.

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The Colorado Springs City Council gave city attorneys permission Monday to defend the city, its former police chief and two officers in a lawsuit filed by the bystander who was paralyzed in a fatal shootout in February 2018.

That shootout claimed the lives of El Paso County sheriff’s Deputy Micah Flick and suspected car thief Manuel Zetina. Two other law enforcement officers were injured, as was Thomas Villanueva, who filed the lawsuit this February.

Villanueva is seeking unspecified compensation, alleging that missteps by law enforcement led to his permanent paralysis.

Mark Simpson, an attorney for the city, told the council Monday that the officers acted appropriately, and the city should be defended. Simpson gave the group that brief update as he sought permission to defend the city defendants.

The council gave him a unanimous thumbs up.

Former Police Chief Pete Carey and Officers Kevin Miyakusu and Marcus Yanez are listed as city defendants.

Also defendants are Sheriff Bill Elder, Flick’s estate, Deputies Scott Stone, Jacob Abendschan, John Watts, Tremaine White, Stephanie Criss and Michael Boggs, and Chad Hunt and John Reindollar of the Colorado State Patrol.

Villanueva’s lawsuit claims officers “made critical and lethal mistakes leading up to and during the takedown” of Zetina, a known gang member who was believed to be armed. Officers did not announce themselves, which would have given Villanueva a chance to avoid the scene as they moved to arrest Zetina, the suit says.

An investigation by the District Attorney’s Office confirmed that the officers did not identify themselves before trying to arrest Zetina.

The council’s decision was unsurprising but disappointing, said Brian Calandra, Villanueva’s attorney.

Previously, Villanueva’s attorneys offered to settle the case out of court, requesting that he be granted the same benefits available to the injured officers, but the offer was rejected, Calandra said.

“By keeping Thomas within their operational perimeter, we believe that he became their responsibility to protect,” Calandra said.

Villanueva will need medical and home health care for the rest of his life, the lawsuit says. He also is seeking punitive damages and attorney fees .

The case is on hold pending results of a motion to dismiss filed by defendants, Calandra said.

A Sheriff’s Office representative could not be reached for comment.

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