Idaho Springs police reach record settlement with Michael Clark for $7M

Michael Clark, the 76-year-old man who sued the city of Idaho Springs and three of its officers after an officer fired a Taser at him without warning and placed a knee on the back of his neck while he laid unconscious, has settled his lawsuit for $7 million, his attorney announced.

“This is a record-breaking settlement in Colorado for a civil rights case not involving wrongful death,” Sarah Schielke , Clark’s attorney, wrote in a Wednesday morning tweet.

An Idaho Springs news release stated the settlement “does not represent an admission of liability from the City for the wide range of claims asserted.

“Rather, the agreement represents a settlement of disputed claims entered into by the City for economic reasons and to bring closure to all involved. The City hopes that the settlement can bring some peace of mind to Mr. Clark and his family, and that the monies paid toward settlement will be available to cover any and all medical needs Mr. Clark may have moving forward.”

City officials, including Idaho Springs Police Chief Nate Buseck, said in the statement they acknowledge the “poor judgement that led to the use of a conducted energy weapon on Mr. Clark.”

Clark filed the lawsuit in July 2021 alleging two of the Idaho Springs officers, Ellie Summers and Nicholas Hanning, used excessive force when they contacted him in his apartment the night of May 30, 2021.

“Mr. Clark enjoyed a rich, happy, independent life prior to this event,” the lawsuit stated. “On May 30, 2021, that life was recklessly and deliberately obliterated by the Idaho Springs Police Department.”

A third officer, Richard Sonnenberg, was named in the suit for allegedly failing to properly train the officers and to allow the officers to continue working, despite histories of complaints against them.

The Idaho Springs release stated the claims against the individual officers were dismissed and that the $7 million will be paid through the city’s insurance carrier.

“We hope that settlement of this matter can provide closure to the many people involved,” Idaho Springs Mayor Chuck Harmon said in a statement. “City leadership remains committed to the constant self-evaluation and betterment of the ISPD in all ways. We remain proud of the men and women who continue to serve this community.”

On May 30, 2021, Hanning and Summers knocked on Clark’s door without announcing themselves after a neighbor reported he had punched her in the face over a noise complaint.

Clark, then 75, answered the door holding a saw-tooth sword but put it away after speaking with the officers. Hanning fired the Taser at Clark without warning, body camera footage shows, and later placed his knee on the back of Clark’s neck while handcuffing the unconscious man.

Clark suffered heart complications due to the incident, according to the lawsuit, including blood clotting and a stroke.

Hanning in December 2021 pleaded guilty to misdemeanor third-degree assault was sentenced in January to two years of supervised probation and ordered to complete 150 hours of community service for assaulting Clark. Hanning also agreed to never again work as a Colorado law enforcement officer.

Schielke said she and Clark’s family would hold a press conference at the Clear Creek Courthouse at 11 a.m. Wednesday morning.

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