By Zachary Dupont
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A lawsuit filed in federal court claims a former Colorado Springs police officer suffered injuries that forced him to retire as a result of a “reckless” car chase by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
The lawsuit, filed by Antero Law offices in the U.S. District Court of Colorado on October 15, 2022, seeks damages for injuries suffered by former officer Steven Wren in the 2019 crash.
“We seek justice for Mr. Wren and to hold the (El Paso County Sheriff’s Office) accountable for failing to follow its own policies and procedures governing vehicle enforcement,” Antero attorney Zachary Mugge wrote in a statement to The Gazette. “The pursuit put the lives and safety of the community at risk and it was not a matter of if, but when, someone would get hurt.”
The incident began on October 18, 2019, when the Sheriff’s Office saw Kaleb Miles driving a stolen truck in the Falcon area.
Miles and his girlfriend Brooke Macklin’s interaction with law enforcement began when the couple drove past a sheriff’s deputy’s vehicle and the deputy began to give chase. However, the lawsuit alleges that the deputy “discontinued the pursuit out of concern for creating an unreasonable risk of danger to those involved and innocent bystanders,” due to the dangerous speed at which Miles was driving.
Later that day, the Sheriff’s Office was notified that Miles and Macklin were seen stealing gas at a Safeway in Falcon, according to the lawsuit, and responded by sending deputies in pursuit.
The second pursuit of Miles would result in deputies chasing Miles as he drove up to 70 mph, even reaching speeds of 100 mph at times, according to the lawsuit, and driving into oncoming traffic.
The lawsuit alleges that CSPD was asked to join the pursuit, but that CSPD found the pursuit too dangerous and declined.
The lawsuit goes on to allege that several sheriff’s deputies also deemed the pursuit dangerous and retreated, while other deputies did not. The lawsuit claims the Sheriff’s Office violated its own policies by continuing the pursuit.
“(El Paso County Sheriff’s Office) vehicle pursuit policies and procedures required the lieutenant and deputies to properly weigh the risk of danger and harm to the public,” Mugge said via a statement. “Instead of doing that, the (Sheriff’s Office) chase reached speeds of 100 mph, blew through red lights and stop signs, crossed into oncoming lanes and cut through medians and over curbs.
“Traffic conditions that Friday afternoon were heavy and countless civilians had to swerve and hit the brakes to avoid collisions.”
[LISTEN: Policing Matters Podcast: Cops speak out on no-pursuit policies]
The second pursuit of Miles lasted nearly an hour and resulted in three multi-vehicle collisions, one in the county and two in Colorado Springs, where the third multi-vehicle collision occurred when Miles caught up and was arrested by sheriff’s deputies.
The lawsuit alleges that on the afternoon of Oct. 18, Wren was sitting at a red light at the intersection of North Academy Boulevard and Austin Bluffs Parkway when the stolen truck “came barreling down Austin Bluffs Parkway traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes and blew through. a red light at high speed into cross traffic running the green signal, all while two (sheriff’s) vehicles driven by Deputy Scott Brettell and Nicholas Witherite, respectively, continued in pursuit.”
Miles’ truck struck a vehicle traveling through the intersection before slamming into the driver’s side of Wren, who was still sitting at the red light, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says the collision resulted in Wren suffering a multi-level compression fracture of his thoracic spine as well as injuries to his left shoulder, arm and hand.
“The Fire and Police Pension Association determined that Mr. Wren suffered a permanent occupational disability and Mr. Wren, who was 37 years old at the time of the collision, was medically retired from the Colorado Springs Police Department,” the lawsuit states.
CSPD spokesman Lt. Pamela Castro confirmed that Steven Wren was a former officer with the department but retired in 2021. Castro said it is against CSPD policy to reveal why Wren retired or whether medical status played a role.
The lawsuit alleges that Wren has been unable to “return to meaningful work,” because of the injuries sustained in the collision, Mugge said.
Earlier reporting by The Gazette says that on October 15, 2019, Miles approached a couple at a Walmart, tried to steal their car and put a shotgun into the car’s bumper when the couple refused to give them the keys.
Earlier reporting also confirms that Miles was part of a car chase with the Sheriff’s Office on October 18, 2019, and that he plowed his pickup truck “through at least a dozen cars as he fled from sheriff’s deputies.”
Jail records show Miles is currently in the Crowley County Correctional Facility serving a 28-year prison sentence spread over three separate 2019 cases in El Paso County, including convictions related to theft and law enforcement on Oct. 18.
Wren and his attorneys have filed a jury demand over the claims listed in the lawsuit, which names the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, El Paso County, former Sheriff Bill Elder and four sheriff’s deputies as defendants.
Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Deb Mynatt told The Gazette, “Per Sheriff’s Office policy, we do not comment on pending litigation.”
The scheduling order for the case, filed in February, states that it is the defendants’ position that any injuries sustained by Wren were the direct fault of Miles, and not the Sheriff’s Office or its deputies.
The document also states the position of the defendants that “the damages [suffered] by Plaintiff following the collision with the Miles vehicle, if any, pre-existed on the October 18, 2019, collision,” and “Defendant disputes the nature and extent of Plaintiff’s injuries and the cause of any alleged injuries and/or damages. “
The lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office remains open, with discovery from both parties due Aug. 31.
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