Report: Death of handcuffed man in Colorado ruled a homicide

Posted at 4:54 PM, February 15, 2023 and last updated 4:14 PM, May 2, 2023

DENVER (AP) — The death of a man who was handcuffed after a mental health team responded to a call of him walking out into traffic last year has been ruled a homicide, according to an autopsy report released Wednesday by lawyers for his family.

According to the report, Kevin Dizmang, 63, died on Nov. 22, 2022, as the result of cardiac arrest that occurred while he was being restrained and while he was acutely intoxicated by methamphetamine and suffering from health problems such as obesity and asthma. The report, dated Jan. 6, 2023, and signed by five doctors, concluded that the manner of Dizmang’s death in Colorado Springs was determined to be a homicide because of “the contribution of physical restraint to the cause of death.”

This is the latest incident in the U.S. that raises questions about how police handle encounters with people experiencing mental health crises.

Lawyers representing Dizmang’s family also released body camera footage in which an officer is repeatedly heard ordering Dizmang to put his hands behind his back while in the street and resisting attempts by the officer to put handcuffs on him. He then is taken to the ground with the help of another person in a red jacket — identified by family lawyer Harry Daniels as the team’s paramedic

It’s hard to see what is happening but, with the person in red holding his arm around the upper part of Dizmang’s body as he lies face down, Dizmang soon stops moving. After he turned face up, others around him call on Dizmang to talk to them but there is no response.

Daniels noted that no one took any effort to try to revive Dizmang at that point. He also faulted the officer for treating the call like a crime scene from the start, rather than like a mental health crisis.

“The people who came to help him are the people who ended up killing him,” said Daniels, who expects to file a lawsuit over Dizmang’s death.

The Colorado Springs Police Department did not immediately respond to questions about the video and autopsy report.

In initial information released after Dizmang’s death, the department said it dispatched a Community Response Team, comprised of a police officer, a paramedic from the city’s fire department and a mental health clinician to respond to a call about a man who was experiencing a “mental health episode” at a home and he was found in a roadway. The officer tried to escort the man out of the street, a struggle ensued and the paramedic helped the officer, it said. The man was placed in handcuffs and become unresponsive, it said. Both the officer and paramedic were placed on paid administrative leave, it said.

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