ACLU sues State Troopers in Kemp killing

Trooper Gene Lawyer appears in court.

Colorado State Patrol Trooper Kirk Firko is surrounded by family and lawyers in his first appearance in court.

A lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court alleges “recklessly deficient” training for Colorado State Patrol troopers contributed to the July 2010 killing of 31-year-old Jason Kemp at a Redlands home.

The American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of Kemp’s parents, Connie and Keith Kemp, named in the lawsuit State Troopers Ivan “Gene” Lawyer, Corporal Kirk Firko, Sgt. Chad Dunlap, along with two State Patrol training officials, Ralph Turano and a “John Doe” who remains unidentified.

Mark Silverstein, ACLU Denver legal director, said an ACLU review of State Patrol training materials preceded the decision to include the State Patrol’s training supervisors in the lawsuit.

“Two supervisory officers—a corporal and a sergeant—were present at the scene and supported or participated in this lawless action of forcefully breaking into a home without a warrant to investigate a minor DUI,” Silverstein is quoted in a news release. “Only recklessly deficient training could account for supervisors’ failure to stop the illegal warrantless entry before it resulted in the tragic escalation that unjustifiably took Jason’s life.”

Lawyer was charged by a Mesa County grand jury with criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault, first-degree criminal trespass, illegal discharge of a firearm, prohibited use of a weapon and criminal mischief. Firko is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal trespass, attempted first-degree criminal trespass and criminal mischief. The indictments allege Kemp was shot and killed by Lawyer after he and Firko repeatedly pounded and kicked at the front door at 103 Glade Park Road, Unit B. The grand jury alleged the troopers attempted unlawful entry to the home toward apprehending Kemp, who was the suspected driver of a vehicle involved in a traffic accident on July 20.

“The criminal prosecution of Lawyer and Firko, even if successful, will not touch the supervisors and higher-ups at the Colorado State Patrol who share responsibility for Jason’s very avoidable death, nor will it bring to light the serious institutional failures of training and supervision that allowed this tragedy to occur” said Rebecca T. Wallace, ACLU Staff Attorney. “This lawsuit will hold accountable the highest-ranking supervisory officer on the scene, Sgt. Dunlap, as well as the State Patrol employees who should have educated the troopers fully on the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, the limits of the exceptions, and the proper limits on use of deadly force.”

Lawyer and Firko remain on unpaid administrative leave from the State Patrol.

State Patrol spokesman Sgt. John Hahn said the agency was evaluating the lawsuit and declined comment.

Read the full story in Wednesday’s Daily Sentinel.


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