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Colorado Prisoner Receives $200,000 Settlement in Excessive Force Case

by Scott Grammer

On September 10, 2014, Colorado prisoner Shawn Lovett was serving a 30-year sentence at the Centennial Correctional Facility in Fremont County when he was moved from one part of the prison to another by guards Shannon Proud and Anthony Martinez. Video footage showed Martinez jerking Lovett’s ankle chain, which sent him face-first into the concrete floor. Lovett, whose hands were cuffed behind his back, suffered a fractured skull. [See: PLN, Sept. 2017, p.63].

“It’s very disturbing,” said attorney Sarah Schielke, who represented Lovett. “It’s very disturbing to watch. Both Officer Proud and Officer Martinez are on the full weight of their bodies and their knees in his back. They are pushing into his neck and back and yelling at him to stop resisting!”

In 2016, Lovett filed suit against Martinez and Proud. According to his complaint, he sued for deliberate indifference to his “clearly established constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as demonstrated by their malicious assault and infliction of pain.” Also named as defendants were Dr. Richard Hodge and nurse Torri Arthur-Cain for “their willful failure to provide critical medical treatment.” Another defendant, Colorado DOC Deputy Executive Director Kellie Wasko, was sued “for her and the Colorado Department of Corrections’ continuing refusal to provide Plaintiff with the critical medical care that his untreated head, brain and vision injuries require,” while Warden Travis Trani and Captain Ronald Ortiz were named as defendants for their “failure to train, investigate, and supervise correctional officers ... and their promulgation of unconstitutional policies and practices regarding: appropriate methods for use of force, pressure point control tactics, use of universal restraints and spit masks, and for the failure to supervise and put an end to systematic and ongoing verbal and racial harassment of prison inmates....”

Martinez and Proud were criminally charged for assaulting Lovett. Proud was sentenced to six months of probation; he continues to work for the DOC. Martinez was fired, pleaded guilty and received a 30-day jail sentence.

Lovett’s complaint alleged that “Defendants Arthur-Cain and Dr. Hodge falsified medical records regarding Plaintiff’s need for medical care and to conceal the true extent of his injuries, and refused him any meaningful medical treatment at all for over three hours. During this time, Plaintiff was left in universal restraints and had a spit mask pulled over his head, causing his profuse ongoing bleeding to well up into his eye and face.” Lovett also claimed that Martinez was known to “relish opportunities to use force on inmates, [and] had been involved in an excessive number of use of force incidents.” He accused Proud of using racial epithets to refer to black prisoners.

On April 23, 2019, a non-confidential draft settlement was reached by the parties in which the State of Colorado agreed to pay $200,000 to Lovett and his attorneys. The defendants did not admit any liability. See: Lovett v. Martinez, U.S.D.C. (D. Colo.), Case No. 1:16-cv-00609-MEH-KLM. 

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Additional sources: kdvr.com, chieftain.com, patch.com

Related legal case

Lovett v. Martinez