Westminster defends actions of ex-officers sued over Taser use, releases video of Walmart incident

A former Westminster police officer used a Taser on a 78-year-old man in a Walmart after the man tried to walk past the officer during a confrontation, surveillance video of the incident shows.

Westminster police released the video this week in response to a civil rights lawsuit filed Jan. 14 by the man, Clayton Shriver, against the city and the two former officers involved in the incident. The department defended the former officers’ actions, noting they had been cleared by an internal investigation.

In the lawsuit, Shriver’s attorneys alleged the officers used excessive force and unfairly prosecuted Shriver, and said the Westminster Police Department failed to properly train them.

Both of the officers involved, Michael Owen and Tyler Farson, resigned from the department in 2021 for reasons not connected to the incident, Westminster police spokeswoman Cheri Spottke said in a news release.

The officers contacted Shriver on May 15, 2020, in a Westminster Walmart after McDonald’s employees reported he would not leave the restaurant, which is located inside the Walmart. The McDonald’s employees told police that Shriver refused to leave the seating area, which was closed to customers due to COVID-19, and was acting aggressively and yelling profanities, according to Owen’s report on the incident, obtained by The Denver Post through a records request.

Shriver was experiencing a health crisis at the time of the incident, according to his lawsuit. He couldn’t understand what the restaurant employees were saying and subsequently began raising his voice. Shriver has medical and emotional health issues including traumatic brain injuries, memory loss, hearing loss and a mood disorder, the lawsuit states. He was sitting in the McDonald’s while his partner shopped because he didn’t feel well, according to the lawsuit.

Surveillance video shows Owen speaking with Shriver for about a minute before Shriver stood up and walked quickly toward the officer. Both Shriver and Owen said Shriver was trying to leave the McDonald’s. Owen wrote in his report that he stopped Shriver from leaving because he wasn’t sure whether a crime had been committed and whether he needed to arrest Shriver.

Owen then grabbed the man and forced him to the ground, the video shows.

Owen wrote in his report that Shriver kicked him in the leg, so he decided to use his Taser on Shriver. Owen used the stun gun twice on Shriver while the two struggled on the ground, the officer wrote in his report. Owen and Farson, the other officer who arrived on scene, then handcuffed Shriver and called an ambulance.

The surveillance footage does not clearly show the use of the Taser or the struggle because the group of men is partially blocked from the camera’s view by a sign and a wall. Neither officer wore a body camera because the Westminster Police Department did not equip officers with cameras until this month.

Shriver was bruised by the officers and had some bleeding from the Taser prongs, photos of his injuries included in the lawsuit show.

Shriver was charged in Westminster municipal court with trespassing, obstructing a police officer and resisting arrest, according to lawsuit. Shriver was given a deferred sentence, which means the charges would be dismissed if he successfully met conditions set by the court, according to the police department. The charges were dismissed, according to his lawyers.

A Westminster police sergeant completed an internal affairs investigation into the incident after the department received notice in April from Shriver’s attorneys that he intended to sue, according to the department The sergeant reviewed reports from the incident, including witness statements, and reviewed the surveillance footage. The sergeant did not interview either Owen or Shriver.

The sergeant found the officers’ use of force to be within department policy.

“The actions of the officers were found to be legal and within policy,” the sergeant wrote in his findings. “None of the officers were found to have used poor judgment. There were no training issues present.”

A civilian review board and department leadership upheld the sergeant’s findings, according to the department.

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