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Colorado State Police to Pay $1 Million for Wrongful Shooting Death

Yahoo Contributor Network

The Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has announced that the Colorado State Patrol has agreed to pay $1 million to the family of a man shot by officers in his home. Here are the details.

* In 2010, State Troopers Kirk Firko and Ivan Lawyer were investigating a minor accident which had resulted in damage to a lawn in a Grand Junction neighborhood, the ACLU reported. The officers believed that Jason Kemp was responsible and may have been driving under the influence.

* According to the ACLU, when the troopers knocked at Kemp's door, the 31-year-old Kemp told them to get a warrant. Instead, the troopers proceeded to break down the man's front door with guns drawn. When the door gave way, Lawyer fired his weapon, shooting and killing Kemp at the scene.

* Mark Silverstein, ACLU director, stated that not only did the troopers violate Kemp's Constitutional rights when they kicked open his door, shot and killed him, but that the supervisors at Colorado State Patrol were responsible for "recklessly deficient training that was the ultimate cause of this needless and preventable death."

* According to Silverstein, Kemp was exercising his rights under the Fourth Amendment when he insisted that the officers obtain a warrant before entering his home. Though some cases allow law enforcement to enter a home without a warrant, the risk that blood alcohol evidence might dissipate is not reason enough to do so, nor is a suspected DUI that results in no personal injury, the ACLU explained.

* In 2011, a Mesa County grand jury indicted Firko and Lawyer, but the criminal charges were ultimately dismissed, the ACLU reported, with the organization's civil action the only means for the family to obtain justice for his death.

* The ACLU filed suit against Kirko, Lawyer and their sergeant Chad Dunlap on behalf of Connie and Keith Kemp, alleging wrongful death as well as illegal police actions.

* In February 2012, a federal judge declined to dismiss the suit against Dunlap, who did not attempt to stop the troopers from breaking down the door, the Denver Post reported. U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock stated that Dunlap's actions "directly facilitated and contributed to the warrantless search and use of force."

* According to the ACLU, evidence was uncovered during its investigation of the incident suggesting that "high-ranking supervisors had fostered a culture that encouraged the use of overly aggressive law enforcement tactics, even when those tactics posed a very real risk to public safety."

* In addition to $1 million to the Kemp family, the Colorado State Patrol has agreed to implement new training modules for all current and future officers including specific instruction on the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment and its limited exceptions, the ACLU stated, adding that the training will emphasize de-escalation tactics and limits on an officer's permissible use of force.

* The settlement agreement provides that the ACLU lawyers will review the new training curriculum and monitor training sessions.

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