Police Abuse

A Colorado Woman Was Tased After Being Arrested For Smoking and Allowing Her Dog Off-Leash

Body camera videos show a woman being tased into compliance after being placed on suicide watch.

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A lawsuit alleges that Boulder police used excessive force when they tased a woman after arresting her for smoking and allowing her dog off leash in 2017.

The plaintiff in the suit, Lauren Gotthelf, owns an emotional support dog named Sage. After getting Sage's picture with Santa, the pair walked through the Pearl Street pedestrian mall on their way back to Gotthelf's vehicle. Sage was off-leash.

Boulder Police Department Officer Ryan McAuley approached Gotthelf and told her that she could not have Sage on the mall and could not smoke a cigarette that she had recently lit. Gotthelf replied that Sage was a service animal and therefore was allowable under the Americans with Disabilities Act. McAuley responded by telling Gotthelf that she would be receiving a summons for walking there with a dog, for lighting a cigarette, and—after she put the cigarette on the ground—for littering. Gotthelf protested that there were other dogs in the area whose owners were not being harassed. She refused to sign the ticket.

McAuley called for backup. Gotthelf was arrested, and she and Sage were forcibly separated.

Boulder County Sheriff's Office (BCSO) deputies were tasked with booking Gotthelf. The booking was captured on body camera, and the sheriff's office later released the footage.

In the video, Gotthelf accuses the officer of "playing games" over the ticket. As she removes her jacket in compliance with the deputies, she says that she simply wanted to pay her fine and get her dog.

"It doesn't work that way," says Sgt. Chris Reiss, the voice behind the body camera. He proceeds to explain that Gotthelf will have to wait until they receive more information from the arresting officer.

When Reiss says Gotthelf is "a little agitated" by her arrest, Gotthelf responds that she is in fact "agitated" because her service dog has been taken to animal control. She also repeatedly challenges the decision to put her in the holding cell.

There is a significant gap between the end of the first video and the start of the second. During this time, the BCSO claims, the prisoner "continually made negative, vulgar, and racist comments to deputies. She continued to yell insults for forty-five minutes. As the video depicts, Ms. Gotthelf continued to be resistant and disruptive, and Jail personnel determined she would be placed in the restraint chair, which was necessary for her safety."

The second video picks up with deputies accusing Gotthelf of threatening to hang herself.

Gotthelf is seen behind the holding cell door denying that she threatened suicide. Gotthelf and the deputies continue to argue over what she said. They give her two options: go into a restraining chair, or strip down, put a smock on, and go on suicide watch.

Gotthelf tells them to take her to the hospital if they truly believe she's suicidal. Once she's in the restraining chair, a deputy holds Gotthelf's chin in what is called a hypoglossal hold. Another calls for a spit mask. The rest strap Gotthelf in the chair while Reiss still holds his taser. The deputies repeatedly yell at Gotthelf to "sit down" before Reiss tases her thigh (or, as the BCSO statement puts it, he "touch tased her once with the 'drive‐stun' setting in the left thigh for pain compliance").

Reiss yells at Gotthelf to "sit down" and "stop resisting"; Gotthelf screams, "I can't." Once she is completely secured, a deputy pushes her into a cell and has her face the wall before Reiss suggests turning her around.

"It's obviously excessive force," Gotthelf attorney, Mari Newman, tells Reason. "They rely on the assertion that she made a suicidal statement as justification to abuse her." If the deputies felt that Gotthelf was a danger to herself, Newman adds, "There's nothing about slamming her into a wall, handcuffing her behind the back, slapping her into a restraint chair, grabbing her by the throat, and tasing her that would have helped that."

Gotthelf's suit alleges that police discriminated against her under the Americans with Disability Act. The sheriff's office maintains that it acted in compliance with its use of force and taser policies, since Gotthelf was resisting their commands.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Lauren Gotthelf is mentally disabled; the complaint alleges that police discriminated against her under the Americans with Disability Act "solely because of her actual and/or perceived disability and its manifestations." The name of Gotthelf's lawyer was also misspelled.

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  1. What does disabled have to do with anything?

    1. Being disabled means that the dog was there for a good reason, rather than being yet another opportunity for the thugs to find probable cause.

    2. 1. It’s a protected class so there are some legal protections that the rest of us don’t get.
      2. It’s a partial explanation for her behavior. Specifically, it’s an explanation for why she had the dog and why she became so agitated when separated from the dog.
      3. It’s a partial rebuttal to the police claim that they had to do all the things they did to enforce compliance.
      4. It’s a moral argument that paints the police behavior as especially offensive. You’re a jerk if you pick a fight. You’re a bully if you pick a fight with someone smaller than you.

  2. Why should they deescalate the situation? They’re the ones with the numbers.

    1. And a near total lack of accountability.

  3. Continually read situations as this AND currently watching “Watchmen” on HBO, I think we are not far from “peace officers” needing to wear masks. The people will eventually rebel against these abuses.

    1. You read the situation and came away as the woman being completely faultless?

      1. for the dog or the cigarette?

      2. In a free country, the people don’t have to be faultless, especially when the thugs started it.

      3. So where is the woman’s fault that merited this?

        1. It’s Boulder. They’re on a different planet.

  4. Since when is entitled bitch a disability? This woman sounds horrible. No leash. Smoking indoors. Then starts talking back for valid citations. And enough with the bullshit service animals.

    1. I don’t think she was smoking indoors. Looks like it was an outdoor mall.

      1. Last time I was in denver, believe they had an x feet from store fronts for smoking.

        1. Damn. Justification for the electric chair right there!

    2. Agreed on everything but the smoking indoors part. Pearl Street mall’s a closed-off street. Every bum and hobo crowding the walkway’s smoking something.

      In the end, she’s lucky they didn’t shoot her dog for moving furtively.

    3. Talking back? Oh my God, the nerve! How dare she express verbal disagreement with the agents of the state!

    4. Gotthelf is mentally disabled

      A little leeway may be in order.

    5. Unsurprising take from you. Are you sure you are a libertarian? You have a visible hard on for thugs and state bullying.

  5. Smoking? Should have shot her on the spot! Think of the children!

    1. Well, it’s not like she was selling loosies.

  6. I’m just going to say that being a horrible entitled bitch in no way excuses bad behavior by the cops, but it does maybe explain it a little. Note, I’m not saying that this particular woman is a horrible entitled bitch, I’m just suggesting that a horrible entitled bitch might act the same way as this woman. And I’ll just add that any cop using a taser as a compliance tool rather than as a non-lethal offensive weapon should have a cattle prod shoved up their ass.

    1. Can you remember any story where in lieu of a firearm the taser was used in self-defense? They’re trained to use it as a compliance device, and often that appears to mission creep into simple punishment.

    2. The cops know what they’re doing to folks with this shit, in order to carry a taser they have to submit to being tased. Same thing with pepper spray. Which makes it always interesting when they immediately start making demands of someone after tasing them, they obviously can’t comply because you fucking tased them. Oh well, cite them for resisting arrest

    3. Most Boulderites of whatever gender are entitled bitches. The cops are acting like entitled bitches themselves. Hey Boulder cops, go find Jon Benet’s killer. I doubt it was some neurotic woman smoking a cigarette with an unleashed dog.

  7. Another example of the enforcement arm of legislature doing their job against people that will not abide by a law created by liberals.

  8. law. enforcement.

  9. she should have signed the ticket but the ticket seemed excessive and both her and the cops seem to have overreacted but then we still don’t know the whole story. I’ll hold judgment on this one for now

  10. The tasing will continue until your mood improves.

  11. All things considered, that dog is extremely fortunate it wasn’t shot.

    1. it’s funny because it’s true.

  12. It seems they may need some new use of force and taser policies.

    1. They agree with you, but not in the way you think.

      1. Make her wear a MAGA hat?

  13. Everyone needs to chill out. The Boulder Police Department will conduct a thorough internal investigation and will absolve all officers of any wrong-doing.
    kNoW yOuR pLaCe, PeAsAnTs

  14. They didn’t really believe she was suicidal, FFS. That was a pretext for the sadism. Not that they ever need one.

    1. Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself.

  15. At east she wasn’t vaping – – – – – – – –

    1. Must be Christmas – – -no ‘L’

  16. And nothing else happened.

    CB

  17. A Colorado Woman Was Tased After Being Arrested For Smoking and Allowing Her Dog Off-Leash
    The headline (above) is totally incorrect! She was not Tased and arrested for smoking and allowing her dog off the leash. She was tased and arrested for not taking the ticket and resisting arrest when they went to arrest her. Ha she taken the ticket and then she would not have been tases nor arrested.

    1. Post hoc ergo propter hoc

  18. Does the “Pearl Street pedestrian mall” have a property owner?

    Perhaps there would be more justification to this aggressive arrest if the defendant was actually resisting a property owners demands. This whole “police state” regulating private property by a mobster vote justice system is getting pretty problematic.

    I imagine the rest is just a matter of over-protocol-ing police enforcement (one suicide comment = instant restraint and taser fun) thanks to “neglect” claims on suicides that do happen in jail.

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