A man police say went limp and died while resisting arrest in a gated community near The Broadmoor has been identified as 49-year-old Chad Burnett, a well-liked former bike shop worker who relatives say behaved erratically in the weeks before his death.
Burnett’s cause of death remains under investigation, the El Paso County Coroner’s Office said this week.
At 6-foot-7 and roughly 260 pounds, Burnett had struggled with as many as five Colorado Springs police officers Sunday morning in the 2700 block of Ashgrove Street, allegedly after a fight with neighbors in which he brandished a knife, according to police.
He had been hit with a Taser at least once, apparently without effect, and lost consciousness as the officers struggled to place him under control, authorities say.
“It’s just a tragic end to a sad life,” said Danny Kay, a Colorado Springs attorney who represents Mark Sather and Pauline Sisson, who are identified in court documents as Burnett’s cousins. Both sought restraining orders against Burnett in mid-May, alleging threatening behavior, and Sather is listed as a victim in a May 7 incident in which Burnett allegedly barged into his family home on Lake Avenue.
Burnett has been “troubled for years,” but Sather and Sisson said his conduct had grown “bizarre” before his death, Kay said.
“I don’t know if there’s ever been a diagnosis, but his behavior was very uneven, and it just kept getting worse,” he said.
In the city’s cycling industry, Burnett was known as a 22-year employee at Colorado Cyclist, a bike shop and national mail-order business on the city’s east side. Burnett worked as a product buyer.
“He loved bicycles, just loved them. He really loved people, too. He loved the customers, he was very friendly with his contacts in the industry and very well-liked in the industry,” said Doug Bruinsma, owner of Colorado Cyclist.
Longtime coworker Alan Keeffe said Burnett loved hockey and mountain biking. “He used to follow the Grateful Dead when he was a young hippie,” he said.
Burnett left the company in November 2019 and later opened Chaz Pro Bike Fit, a small business that adjusted bicycles to better fit their riders.
Burnett reportedly received a substantial inheritance after the death of his mother in January 2019, Kay said. Obituaries show that Sarah Harper Borchert died eight days after her husband, John Borchert. They married in 1979 when Burnett was about 10. Bruinsma said the deaths of Burnett’s parents upset him.
Sather and Sisson were "interested parties" in a probate action brought by Burnett over his mother's estate, according to court records reviewed by The Gazette. Further details of that litigation weren't available.
John Borchert was described in an obituary as a fourth-generation Colorado Springs native who in 1979 helped found LVW Electronics, which provides electrical systems for large businesses and the military. At the time of Borchert's death, the company had projects in 40 states, and touted “high-profile installations” at the Pepsi Center and the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in Denver and the Pikes Peak Center in Colorado Springs, among other state landmarks.
Sarah Harper Borchert was the great-great-granddaughter of Judge James Harvey Pinkerton, who helped settle the area between Silverton and Durango in the mid-1800s and was a member of the 2nd Colorado Legislature, her obituary said.
Burnett's social media accounts, company website and personal voicemail all identified him as Chad Burnett-Borchert. Sarah Stein, an attorney involved in the court battle over the Sarah Borchert estate, said Burnett recently adopted the hyphenated name, claiming it was never made official by the Clerk and Recorder’s Office.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the deadly use-of-force. All five police officers involved were placed on administrative leave at the discretion of their supervisors, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Deborah Mynatt. She did not identify the officers.
Mynatt previously said she couldn’t provide details about the “specific maneuvers” involved in Burnett’s arrest. She said that Tasers can fail for a variety of reasons, including when both probes fail to penetrate a person’s skin.
A news release on Thursday provided no new details about the dispute between Burnett and neighbors that culminated in his death. The Gazette has requested any body camera footage of the confrontation; none has been released.
In the May 7 trespassing incident, Sather told police Burnett entered his home uninvited in the 0-100 block of Lake Avenue, and that Sather's wife confronted him in the kitchen, telling him to leave.
“Mr. Sather said Mr. Burnett was mumbling under his breath and said he just wanted to talk as he exited the kitchen,” an affidavit said.
Surveillance cameras showed Burnett entering the home from a side door, authorities said.
When confronted by police later in the day, Burnett initially said he knocked on the door because he wanted to talk. Later, he changed his story, saying he believed his cousins were in Europe and that he went to check on their welfare. Finally, during the same interview with police, Burnett denied going to the home.
Instead of being arrested, Burnett was cited in a felony summons ordering him to appear in court. Police have increasingly turned to summonses rather than jailing people in a bid to reduce crowding at the El Paso County jail amid the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities have said.
Kay said his clients’ fears were aroused again two days before Burnett’s death, when Broadmoor security officers were called late on May 22 to investigate a complaint that he was behaving suspiciously near his blue Corvette, which he had parked on Lake Avenue.
When the officers arrived, they shone their spotlight near the car and saw Burnett, dressed in black, “coming up out of the ditch carrying an aluminum bat,” Kay said, reading from a report prepared by Broadmoor security police.
Burnett ultimately lowered his bat, turned and walked away, Kay said.
Kay said Burnett also targeted a woman who was to serve as a witness for the restraining orders filed by his clients, accosting her on the street and calling her a lewd name, saying, “I own you.” That woman had also considered seeking a restraining order, he said.
Kay said he believed that mental health issues contributed to Burnett’s changing behavior.