City fighting lawsuit over incident that led to firing, suicide of officer
Attorneys for the city of Grand Junction deny claims of negligence filed in a lawsuit by a woman who alleged she was raped by a Grand Junction police officer.
In a formal response to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, attorneys with the Denver law firm Senter, Goldfarb & Rice argued the Grand Junction Police Department and its leadership should not be liable in connection with assault allegations that led to the firing and arrest of the late 35-year-old officer Glenn Coyne.
“Coyne was neither acting within the course or scope of his employment, nor acting under color of state law, nor acting with the authority of or with the knowledge of defendants,” attorneys wrote.
The woman also “failed to reasonably mitigate her alleged damages,” the city’s response reads. The attorneys asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit and order the woman pay the city’s legal fees.
The lawsuit alleges the Police Department, including former Chief Bill Gardner, current Chief John Camper and Coyne’s former supervising sergeant, William Baker, knew Coyne posed a threat and had a “propensity for violence against women” following unrelated sexual-assault allegations against the officer that were investigated in December 2008.
Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger declined to prosecute Coyne after a criminal investigation, citing a lack of proof. Coyne was placed back on patrol in March 2009 with probationary status after an internal investigation.
The lawsuit argues Coyne should have been fired.
Coyne was fired Oct. 1, hours after he was booked into Mesa County Jail on suspicion of sexually assaulting the woman in her home around midnight on Sept. 28, 2009. He committed suicide five days later after posting a $250,000 bond.
Among the 52 specific points in the woman’s lawsuit denied by the city, attorneys reject her claim that Coyne’s supervisor, Baker, agreed to allow Coyne to end his shift one hour early in order to go to the woman’s home. The city’s response only admits Coyne asked Baker for permission to leave early.
Both sides agree Coyne’s shift starting Sept. 28 was scheduled to end at 1 a.m. Sept. 29.
The woman claimed she suffered a broken shoulder, fractured ribs and other cuts and bruises, aside from injuries consistent with a sexual assault.