Parents sue troopers in Kemp death

State Patrol trooper Ivan Lawyer

State Patrol Cpl. Kirk Firko

A lawsuit filed Tuesday in Denver federal court alleges “recklessly deficient” training for Colorado State Patrol troopers was a factor in the shooting death of a man at a Redlands home last year.

The American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of the parents of the late Jason Kemp, Georgia residents Connie and Keith Kemp, filed a lawsuit that names State Troopers Ivan “Gene” Lawyer, Cpl. Kirk Firko and Sgt. Chad Dunlap, along with two State Patrol training officials: Ralph Turano and another man who remains unidentified.

Mark Silverstein, ACLU Denver legal director, said a review of State Patrol training materials preceded ACLU’s decision to include the State Patrol 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 said. “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.

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 to apprehend Kemp, who was the driver of a vehicle involved in a suspected alcohol-related traffic accident on July 20, 2010.

Kemp, 31, was unarmed when he was shot once in the chest.

“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 Wallace, ACLU staff attorney.

Dunlap, who was the supervisor of the scene at Kemp’s home July 20, testified before the grand jury investigating Kemp’s death but was not charged.

Turano is identified in the lawsuit as a training attorney at the State Patrol’s Front Range academy, responsible for developing training materials and procedures for troopers.

The lawsuit alleges “exigent circumstances” did not exist during the July 20 incident, which would have justified a warrantless entry into the Glade Park Road home.

“The policies ... crafted on this topic fail to teach Colorado State Patrol troopers that violent, forced, warrantless entry into an individual’s home in order to investigate a minor auto-related accident and/or preserve chemical evidence related to an alleged DUI is unconstitutional,” the lawsuit alleges.

“Any properly trained police officer” would have avoided the troopers’ actions July 20, the lawsuit alleges.

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.

Kemp’s family referred comment to ACLU Denver.


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