Travis Cole alleges that race was a "motivating factor" in the excessive force employed by Christopher Andrew Mecca, a former Boulder County Sheriff's Department Sergeant, during the 2020 incident at the Boulder County Jail.
“I had a fine respect for officers of the law, but now I have a fear,” Cole told NBC News. “I don’t feel they’re here to protect and serve.”
Cole was arrested by Longmont Police Department officers and was taken to jail in September 2020.
According to Mecca's arrest affidavit, Cole was being uncooperative before he was strapped to a chair and had two "spit sock" bags put over his head.
The affidavit says Cole shouted "Let's go!" multiple times at deputies, challenging them to fight him.
While Cole was fully restrained, Mecca responded "You wanna?" and proceeded to shock the man with a Taser, per the affidavit.
Cole's lawsuit claims that eight other deputies stood by and failed to intervene as Mecca Tased him.
“How is a man tied to a chair a threat?" Cole said in a written statement, per his attorney. "Being black didn’t warrant that kind of treatment, humiliation, to be tied up for hours and degraded. I've never felt so defeated, and I couldn't even protect my body.”
The sergeant resigned in lieu of termination following the incident and was arrested on charges of assault and misconduct.
A jury convicted Mecca in December 2021, and he was sentenced to probation.
Cole’s attorney, Mari Newman, said the department failed to train Mecca properly, which allowed “unconstitutional” conduct to occur.
"[Mecca] made a conscious decision to use force in a way that he thought he could get away with,” Newman said in a statement. “He took Travis’ race into account when deciding what kind of excessive force to use against him.”
Sheriff Joe Pelle told the Denver Post last week that the agency had a policy in place at the time of the incident that prohibited the use of stun guns on restrained inmates.
“The sheriff’s office acted quickly and with full public transparency in the handling of this misuse of force, and to hold the former employee accountable,” Pelle said in a statement. “The sheriff disagrees with the allegations in the lawsuit alleging culpability on the part of our agency, and counters that the former employee acted outside of our policy and training, and bears responsibility for that decision alone.”
Cole said he filed the lawsuit against Boulder County, Pelle, Mecca, and several other deputies “because this has been happening so often around the world and a lot of people don’t know that they can speak out.”
“They can’t continue to get away with it,” he added.
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