DENVER | A Larimer County deputy who deployed a Taser on a man who was then hit and killed by an SUV on Interstate 25 won’t face criminal charges, prosecutors said Friday.
While Deputy Lorenzo Lujan’s decision to use the Taser on Brent Thompson after he ran away as the deputy tried to arrest him showed “poor judgment” and possibly the need for more training, 8th District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin said it was not likely a jury would find Lujan criminally negligent and convict him.
According to McLaughlin’s letter summarizing the investigation into Thompson’s death, Thompson pulled off at an I-25 exit after Lujan turned on his patrol car’s lights at night on Feb. 18. But as Lujan tried to arrest Thompson, who allegedly gave a false name and did not have a driver’s license, he ran down an embankment toward the highway.
Body camera footage showed Thompson was getting onto the interstate from the shoulder when Lujan deployed the Taser, and another officer said he saw Thompson fall in the northbound side of the roadway, the summarizing letter said. The second officer then saw approaching headlights and waved his flashlight to warn that vehicle to stop.
The man driving the Ford Explorer, with his wife and three children inside, said he saw something in the road and two people standing along the highway. He said he tried to steer away from the people and hit something in the road.
Lujan, who was working overtime, told investigators he wanted to detain Thompson so he did not pose a threat to himself or drivers on the interstate.
However, the letter noted that he looked for approaching vehicles about 20 seconds before deploying the Taser, but not right before using it about 15 seconds later, calling that “a clear lapse in judgement.”
A law firm representing Thompson’s family, Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, called the decision not to pursue charges a “travesty of justice” and called for Lujan to be fired.
Lujan has been working in a non-enforcement capacity since early July and will remain in that role until the conclusion of the department’s own investigation into what happened, sheriff’s office spokesperson Kate Kimble said. It is expected to wrap up in the next few days, she said.
Such internal investigations typically look at whether department policies were followed.
The statement from the law firm referenced another case where officers in another Colorado county were prosecuted after a woman under arrest was put in a patrol car parked on railroad tracks. A train then hit the car, injuring the woman.
“As unconscionable as it is locking a person in a police car on railroad tracks, it is even more unconscionable to tase someone on the interstate at night. Tasing a person on the interstate is a death sentence,” it said.
One of the lawyers representing Thompson’s family, Siddhartha Rathod, who has seen the body camera footage, said Thompson was in the middle of the northbound lanes when he was hit with the Taser. Lujan was a few feet away and had to get back to avoid being hit himself, he said.