POLICE CARS

Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

A woman says she was falsely arrested and harassed by Colorado Springs police officers after she called 911 to help save a stranger she saw lying motionless on the ground, apparently from a drug overdose, a federal lawsuit filed Thursday claims.

Sasha Cronick was arrested in December 2018 in the parking lot of a southeast Colorado Springs motel and cited with failure to desist or disperse after she refused to give her address to a police officer who responded to the call, documents show.

The lawsuit alleges three officers and a supervising sergeant did not have probable cause or “reasonable suspicion” to believe Cronick violated the law and that they wrongfully “manhandled, assaulted, arrested and prosecuted” her.

The suit seeks damages for the misconduct on behalf of officers Christopher Pryor, Robert McCafferty, Daniel Lambert and Sgt. Michael Inazu, as well as the city for its “continuous ratification of unconstitutional detentions, arrests, prosecutions, excessive force and stifling of free speech.”

Spokeswomen for the Colorado Springs Police Department and the city declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

According to the lawsuit, Cronick was leaving the motel, where she was temporarily living, when she heard a woman screaming that her boyfriend overdosed on drugs and wasn’t breathing. Cronick called 911 and coached the woman through the steps of CPR, instructing her on how long to breathe and counting chest compressions per the 911 operator's instructions.

The man began to breathe and when paramedics arrived to provide aid, Cronick stepped aside and started to record with her cellphone.

After Pryor approached Cronick and asked for her address, Cronick said she was uncomfortable giving him that information and refused. He then told her to leave and grabbed her arm.

Cronick pulled away and told Pryor not to place his hands on her. McCafferty and Pryor continued to engage with Cronick and responded by “grabbing (her), throwing her to her knees and then pushing her face down onto the concrete before handcuffing her causing her extensive pain.”

The lawsuit alleges that Cronick did not resist any of the officers’ commands, nor did she act aggressively toward officers or resist arrest.

After reviewing body camera footage that captured the incident, Inazu issued Cronick a summons for failure to desist or disperse, the lawsuit states.

Cronick pleaded not guilty and she was later acquitted by a jury.

In the class-action suit, Cronick’s lawyers accused the police department of prosecuting Cronick for engaging in speech that is critical of the city and its employees or offensive; using force against those who exercise free speech to criticize the police department; “maliciously prosecuting” citizens without probable cause in attempt to “cover-up” police misconduct; and failing to discipline officers when faced with “obvious constitutional violations.”

“The Colorado Springs police department has a history of arresting people who ‘disturb the police’ but otherwise commit no crimes,” one of her lawyers, David Lane, said in an email. “Unfortunately, the City’s taxpayers have to pay for the misconduct of their officers whose actions are tolerated by the City Council, the Mayor and the police department.”

Reach Olivia at olivia.prentzel@gazette.com.

Twitter: @oliviaprentzel

Load comments