A 76-year-old Colorado man who was tased by police while standing inside of his apartment in May 2021 has reached a settlement in his civil lawsuit, his attorney announced.
Michael Clark, then 75, filed the federal civil rights case against then-Officers Nicholas Hanning and Ellie Summers, Corporal Richard Sonnenberg, and the Idaho Springs Police Department back in July 2021.
The father and grandfather’s attorney Sarah Schielke of the Life & Liberty Law Office announced Wednesday that the case is coming to an end now that a multi-million dollar settlement has been reached. Schielke’s firm said that the incident had a profound impact on Clark’s health, both in the immediate aftermath of the tasing and currently.
“Last year, after Mr. Clark’s attorney Sarah Schielke released the bodyworn camera videos showing Idaho Springs’s tasing, assault, and cover-up of their attack on Mr. Clark, the incident made national headlines (Washington Post, NBC News, CNN, Vice, CBS, Inside Edition, NPR) and resulted in one of the involved officers (Nicholas Hanning) being criminally prosecuted for assault,” the law firm said in a press release on the settlement. “Mr. Clark suffered a stroke, subdural hemorrhage, permanent cognitive impairments, and the loss of nearly all independence as a result of Idaho Springs Police’s gruesome attack and mistreatment. He will never again be able to drive a car, cook himself a meal, or even take a walk down the street with his grandchildren.”
“He is wheelchair bound and now forever dependent on his family and doctors to survive,” the press release added.
The law firm referred to the $7 million settlement figure as a “record-breaking settlement amount for a civil rights case in Colorado not involving wrongful death.”
Clark’s lawsuit had described him as a widower who prior to the incident was finally enjoying a “rich, happy life,” living in Idaho Springs, volunteering, and tending to his pets.
Video shared by Clark’s attorney showed the officers’ interacting that fateful day with Clark’s neighbor, Brittany Odom, who claimed Clark had punched her in the face after complaining about noise coming from her apartment. Neither Clark nor Odom were charged, though the elderly man’s lawyer previously claimed Odom was the threatening one.
“Ms. Odom is seen on these bodycam videos making multiple threats on Mr. Clark’s life to police, and neither Chief Buseck nor elected district attorney Heidi McCollum, who have had the videos for the past 10 weeks, ever attempted to warn Mr. Clark that his life was in danger,” Schielke said in July 2021. “They did not inform him of the threats. They did not obtain a protection order on his behalf. They did not even alert the apartment’s property manager.”
“Instead, they kept the videos from Mr. Clark and his family,” Schielke went on. “They took no steps to protect him from Ms. Odom, who, in addition the repeated declarations we see her make on video stating she would kill Mr. Clark, also has a violent criminal history that includes an aggravated assault charge for stabbing a man in the neck. How could so many individuals at so many levels of government fail so repeatedly and deliberately to execute their duties to keep this innocent, elderly man safe? It is a culture of recklessness, indifference and self-protectionism. And sadly, as the events of this case illustrate – it goes all the way to the top. With this lawsuit and everything else he has left, Mr. Clark intends to put an end to it.”
The video released by Clark’s lawyers showed Hanning and Summers knocking on his apartment door without identifying themselves as police.
Clark answered the door in his boxer shorts, initially holding a weapon described in the lawsuit as a “collectible sawfish snout sword, made from the bill of a sawfish.” Video showed that he put the sword down as officers ordered, but he didn’t immediately follow the officers’ ensuing instructions — which he claimed alternated between “GET OUT HERE!!!” and “GET DOWN ON THE GROUND!!”
The situation escalated to Hanning using a Taser after Clark verbally refused to exit the apartment. Video showed the sword was also moved into the hallway.
Hanning was subsequently fired and charged with felony assault.
In a statement announcing Hanning’s termination, police confirmed that the officers had not identified themselves as police when knocking on Clark’s door and noted that Clark was not holding a weapon at the time he was tased.
Hanning went on to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to probation.
At that sentencing hearing, Hanning reportedly apologized.
“I tarnished the badge I once wore,” Hanning acknowledged, according to the Denver Post.
After receiving a reprimand and facing multiple lawsuits, KDVR reported, Summers resigned.
A press conference on the settlement was expected to take place at 11:00 a.m. local time.
Marisa Sarnoff contributed to this report.
[Images via the Life & Liberty Law Office]
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