Excessive force lawsuit against Loveland Police settled for $290K

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An excessive force lawsuit filed against the Loveland Police Department has been settled for nearly $300,000.

Loveland resident Pretson Sowl filed the lawsuit against the city of Loveland, Loveland Police Department and Loveland police officers Paul Ashe and Benjamin DeLima, Det. Clint Schnorr and Sgt. Brian Bartnes.

The lawsuit alleged officers violated Sowl’s constitutional rights when they arrested him for refusing to answer questions as a witness about a motorcycle crash outside a Loveland bar Sept. 22, 2019. 

Ashe detained Sowl for not answering his questions, twisting his arm behind his back and pushing his face into the ground. Sowl said he needed shoulder replacement surgery after the incident, according to the lawsuit.

Sowl’s arrest was captured on body camera footage. At one point in the interaction, Sowl can be heard telling Ashe, “I don’t know what happened. I’m not talking to nobody.”

“It is long-established that a citizen cannot be charged with obstruction (or any crime) for merely refusing to answer police questioning,” Sowl’s attorney Sarah Schielke said in a news release at the time the lawsuit was filed in June 2020. 

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Ashe arrested Sowl for obstruction of justice and resisting arrest, but the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges, according to the lawsuit. 

The federal lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, alleged Sowls’ First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments were violated, according to a news release from Schielke. 

The case was settled for $290,000, according to the Associated Press.

“The settlement ends the continuation of lengthy and expensive litigation, and resolution is deemed to be in the best interest of all parties,” Schielke said in the release. 

Schielke and Sowl were not able to answer any additional questions about the settlement due to the agreement with Loveland, according to the news release. The Loveland City Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment as of Thursday afternoon. 

According to the Associated Press, Loveland City Attorney Moses Garcia said the settlement states the city and officers do not admit any guilt in this case. 

Sady Swanson covers public safety, K-12 education and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at sswanson@coloradoan.com or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.