Christopher Lopez: $3M in Death of Man Whose Jailers Joked and Laughed as He Slowly Died

Page 2 of 3

The suit is included below in its entirety. But here's the dramatic introduction, as featured in our previous coverage:
On March 17, 2013, in full view of most of the Defendants, a shackled and stripped Christopher Lopez died alone and ignored, on the cold concrete floor of a cell at the San Carlos Correctional Facility. His death could have been easily prevented by most of the defendants had any one of them simply picked up a phone and called for medical help. Instead, the Defendants, all employees of the Colorado Department of Corrections, ultimately made what could pass as a documentary film on how to ignore the obvious and serious medical needs of a dying prisoner for hours until the very last breath of life leaves his body.
In an interview this past June, attorney David Lane, who represented the Lopez family in the lawsuit, told us he felt authorities would have a difficult time refuting the facts as presented in the complaint, given that "the whole thing is on high-quality, made-for-TV video," which he described prior to the release of a 47-minute compilation of the footage also seen here. Lane described the source material like so: "The first video shows Christopher Lopez lying face down on the floor of his cell, naked from the waist up, and the staff is yelling in the cuff slot" -- the slot in the cell door through which prisoners can extend their hands in order to be handcuffed. "They're saying, 'Come to the slot and cuff up or we're not going to help you with your medical issue.' But you can see Lopez is virtually unconscious. He's trying to lift his head but he's not strong enough to do it.

"Then they gear up the force team" -- personnel assigned to forcibly extract an inmate from his cell -- "and go in. But first, they talk about pepper-spraying him because he's not complying with their demands, even though some low-level guard says he has a medical issue. The only reason they don't pepper-spray him is because they're short-staffed.

"Their reports about this are all part of the cover up," Lane contended. "They say, 'He disobeyed our order' to make it seem like he was obstreperous when he was actually almost unconscious."

Once inside the cell, Lane continued, staffers "put Lopez in a restraint chair with a belly chain and his wrists shackled to the belly chain, and put a spit hood over him even though he wasn't doing anything.

"If he was disobeying their orders, it was because he was 95 percent dead at this point."

Continue for more about the Christopher Lopez settlement, including more photos, a document and a video that may disturb some readers.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts