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Colorado officer disputes claims of civil rights violation

JACKSON — The Colorado police officer who held a Jackson teenager at gunpoint when he was running to the bus stop says the injuries he sustained from that mishap are his own fault.

“Plaintiff’s injuries and damages, if any, were the result of plaintiff’s own negligent, intentional and/or unlawful conduct,” attorney Katye Brown stated in Vanessa Schultz’s answer to a civil rights lawsuit being brought against her.

Gerardo Becerra, 18, filed a complaint against Schultz in May for assault, battery and false imprisonment.

Schultz, 32, a police agent at the Lakewood Police Department was off duty and vacationing in Jackson in July 2018 when she heard a loud noise near Snow King Avenue and Flat Creek Drive.

She saw Becerra running, pulled out her gun and ordered him to the ground.

Jackson police said Schultz called 911 and reported it as an armed robbery.

Afterward, Chief of Police Todd Smith described what unfolded as a misunderstanding and said Schultz likely crossed a line when she acted as a peace officer outside her own jurisdiction.

An investigation pointed to charging Schultz with felonious restraint and aggravated assault.

But Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun, who was assigned as a special prosecutor, decided not to file criminal charges against the vacationing officer “because it is apparent she lacked criminal intent or evil mind.”

LeBrun did agree that Schultz shouldn’t have drawn her pistol, but not enough to file charges.

The complaint against Schultz said she kept her gun pointed at Becerra and threatened to shoot him if he didn’t cooperate.

“Mr. Becerra was unarmed, did not pose any threat of violence to Ms. Schultz or anyone else nearby, and never said anything that constituted a threat or indicated he was dangerous,” Attorney Alex Freeburg stated in the complaint. “Mr. Becerra told Ms. Schultz that he hadn’t done anything wrong, but she refused to talk to him, choosing instead to pull her pistol, point it at him, and threaten to fire unless he did what she said.”

Becerra’s complaint states that he’s had lasting negative effects from the detainment, such as severe anxiety and hyperventilation and stigma.

“Ms. Schultz’s conduct went beyond all bounds of decency and is considered atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” Freeburg wrote in the complaint.

But Schultz’s attorney countered that her client did not violate Becerra’s constitutional rights.

Schultz’s “actions were at all times undertaken with a good faith belief in the lawfulness of her actions and were objectively reasonable under the circumstances she confronted,” attorney Katye Brown wrote.

The complaint was filed in Teton County District Court but has since been removed and refiled in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming.

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