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Family of Colorado Springs man who died while in custody of mental health team files wrongful death lawsuit

Kevin Dizmang, 63, stopped breathing while being restrained by members of the Critical Response Team
Kevin Dizmang cuffs.jpeg
Posted at 6:16 PM, Feb 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-14 00:20:17-05

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The family of an unarmed Colorado man who died while in the custody of a Colorado Springs Police Department mental health team in 2022 has filed a wrongful death suit against a police officer and fire department paramedic, civil rights attorneys representing the family announced Tuesday.

The lawsuit names Sean Reed, a Colorado Springs police officer; and Nick Fisher, a Colorado Springs Fire Department paramedic, as the defendants in the suit.

Kevin Dizmang, 63, stopped breathing as an officer and paramedic working as part of the city's Critical Response Team (CRT) pulled him out of traffic and restrained him in November of 2022. Attempts to resuscitate Dizmang were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at Penrose Hospital. A coroner's report would later classify Dizmang's death as a homicide.

A spokesman for the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office told News 5 in February of 2022 that the Deadly Force Investigation Team reviewed the incident and that the actions of the police officer and paramedic were reasonable.

But questions surrounding his death arose when lawyers for the family released body-worn camera video which showed how the events of that night unfolded.

In the video, Reed is repeatedly heard ordering Dizmang to put his hands behind his back while in the street, as others try to stop cars, and resisting attempts by the officer to put handcuffs on him. He then is taken to the ground with the help of another person in a red jacket — identified by family lawyer Harry Daniels as Fischer, the team’s paramedic.

Once he is fully cuffed, Reed instructs Fischer to help him roll Dizmang onto his side.

Jesse Sharp, a manager at the mobile home park where Dizmang lived, is heard in the video saying, "Kev, breathe for me Papa, Kev."

Sharp later explained to Reed that he and Justin Miller saw Dizmang walking into traffic on Mount View Lane and tried to help him.

It’s hard to see what is happening but, with the person in red holding his arm around the upper part of Dizmang’s body as he lies face down, Dizmang soon stops moving. After he is turned face up, others around him call on Dizmang to talk to them but there is no response.

Reed is then seen using his radio to call for an ambulance. As the group waited he asked Fischer, "Is he okay?"

Fischer's answer is difficult to hear because the police radio interrupts his reply. "He's not aspirating," he appears to say.

Daniels noted that no one made any effort to try to revive Dizmang at that point. He also faulted the officer for treating the call like a crime scene from the start, rather than like a mental health crisis.

The family's attorney told News 5 that Dizmang's daughter hired him and Bakari Sellers to represent their interests in the case. He believes the Critical Response Team should help people in mental distress and not restrain them.

Wrongful Death lawsuit filed against local police officer & paramedic

"You can see him, Mr. Dizmang's neck is in the armpits of the officer while he's applying pressure. Not the officer, but this paramedic, who is not trained by any capacity to engage in any such behavior," Daniels said.

The coroner's report would go into detail about what caused the 63-year-old to die.

"It is my opinion that Kevin Dizmang, a 63-year-old white male, died as a result of cardiopulmonary arrest in the setting of physical restraint, acute methamphetamine intoxication, COPD and asthma, cardiomegaly, diaphragmatic paralysis, and obesity," the report states.

A second body cam video shows moments inside Penrose Hospital.

The video is blurred, but Fischer can be heard describing the tackle he performed on Dizmang to others.

"My first time taking somebody down with this job," he said. "And I was like, 'I don't know what I'm supposed to do.' Another clinician told me, she's like, 'Go help him restrain him.' I go to pull drugs out, and she's like, 'No, go help him,' and I was like, 'Oop high school football," he said, as other men in the video can be heard laughing.

"Good form homie," a voice can be heard telling Fischer.

Daniels urged the community not to let this video dehumanize Dizmang.

"This is a family," he said. "This is a father, a grandfather who was loved dearly by his family, by his grandchildren, and despite the fact that he came across some demons and had his issues, that does not negate the value of his life."

If you would like to read the lawsuit for yourself you can do so here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.