By Brian Maass
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (CBS4) – A man with diabetes will receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from Commerce City after officers beat, tased and pepper sprayed him after mistakenly believing he was driving drunk.
Carl Leadholm, 41, says he is Mormon and has never had an alcoholic beverage in his life.
“For half a dozen officers to treat me that way, it’s hard to understand why they would use such force,” said Leadholm, after the $825,000 settlement was finalized last month.
A spokesman for Commerce City, Travis Huntington, declined to answer questions from CBS4, but released a statement saying, ”The city and its insurance provider opted to resolve this case to avoid the uncertainty and distraction that would result from a trial and potential appeal.”
According to police reports, depositions and interviews, Leadholm, who has Type 1 diabetes, was driving home from work Nov. 18, 2014 when he began experiencing symptoms of diabetic shock.
Several drivers called Commerce City police to report Leadholm driving erratically, weaving, nearly hitting oncoming cars and driving into a ditch. Police believed Leadholm was likely a DUI driver.
But when police caught up with him, he didn’t immediately pull over and continued weaving. Leadholm says he had essentially blacked out and has only fleeting memories of what happened.
When police finally got Leadholm’s SUV stopped, they say they “forcibly removed” him from the vehicle, throwing him to the pavement. One officer said he heard Leadholm say, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Officer Chris Dickey wrote that Leadholm curled up into a fetal position and did not comply with orders to allow himself to be handcuffed.
Police pepper sprayed Leadholm in the eyes, but contends he continued to resist. Dickey then used his collapsible baton on Leadholm, saying he hit Leadholm in the leg as hard as he could.
After that, Dickey tasered Leadholm five times.
“My face looked like it had been dragged on asphalt”, said Leadholm. He said he underwent multiple surgeries for his injuries and now has a metal rod in one of his fingers.
One officer reported that Leadholm said “he was a diabetic and gets violent when his blood sugar gets low.”
When paramedics arrived, they checked his blood sugar levels, which should have been between 90 and 120. They measured Leadholm at 35.
Officers eventually noted they did not smell any liquor on his breath nor did he have any symptoms of drug intoxication.
Leadholm later filed a federal lawsuit against Commerce City and its officers, and between him and his attorneys will receive $825,000.
Huntington told CBS4 insurance will pay for all but $50,000 of the settlement.
David Fisher, an attorney representing Leadholm, contends the settlement was fair and just.
”They pulled him over for what they thought was DUI and what they did next was, everything wrong. I don’t think any of them had adequate training to recognize the diabetes Carl was having.“
Fisher suggests in cases like this officers need to have a conversation with the people they are dealing with and “slow down.”
Even after realizing Leadholm was not drunk and was experiencing a diabetic episode, police cited him for reckless driving, failing to yield to an emergency vehicle and resisting arrest. Those charges were later dismissed.
Leadholm told CBS4 the incident has had long lasting ramifications as he is now physically limited and can no longer play sports, suffers from PTSD and has had fits of anger directed at family members.
Leadholm now lives in Idaho.