WATCH: Lawsuit Accuses Vermont Police of Excessive Force

Shown in this police body-cam video, Hineburg Police Officer Cameron Coltharp holds down Lori Carron after responding to her home May 6.

June 22 2016

Vermont – A Hinesburg woman has filed a lawsuit against two town police officers she says used “excessive force” when they responded to her home in May.

Lori Ann Carron says she suffers from mental-health issues and was in crisis when police were called to her house May 6, according to a lawsuit filed by lawyers Brooks McArthur and David Williams this week in U.S. District Court in Burlington.

Officers Cameron Coltharp and Jeremy Hulshof responded after Carron’s husband called 911. Carron had been the subject of several 911 calls and police responses in the days before the incident in question, McArthur said.

Hinesburg Police Chief Frank Koss said Wednesday his department is conducting an internal investigation, and the two officers remain on duty. Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan said he is aware of the lawsuit and plans to meet with Koss on Thursday.

“They were responding to a call of a domestic assault,” Koss said. “That’s a fact. We undergo the same mental-health-response training that all officers in the state receive, and we are all current on that training.”

Carron’s lawsuit, which names the officers as defendants, states the situation had calmed down when police arrived, but the officers chose to place her in handcuffs. She alleges the officers violated her civil rights by restraining her without probable cause and by submitting “false reports.”

“As a result of Defendants’ outrageous, illegal, unconstitutional and unlawful conduct, Plaintiff suffered a serious physical, emotional and psychological injuries,” the complaint states. McArthur said Wednesday that Carron had suffered a broken rib, concussion, cuts and contusions to her head, back and neck injuries and damage to her elbow that had recently been reconstructed.

Carron is asking a judge for damages, attorneys fees, and “other and further relief as this Court deems proper,” the complaint states. The officers have yet to respond to the lawsuit, and no hearings have been set.

‘Someone needs to go away’

The Burlington Free Press obtained audio of 911 calls made May 6, along with dashboard- and body-camera footage of the incident and reports filed by the officers. McArthur said Carron was never criminally charged, because she “didn’t engage in anything criminal.”

Carron’s husband, Philip Cromer, called the police shortly after 4 p.m. and can be heard in the background after Carron took the phone away. McArthur said Carron was in a bad mental state since her sister had died the week before.

“Send them back,” Cromer can be heard saying in the background of the call, requesting police. Then to Carron, he says, “You’re threatening me; you’re threatening your mother.”

“There’s nothing going on here,” Carron tells the dispatcher.

“Let go of me,” Cromer yelled. “Lori, you need some help. I’m sorry.”

Officers Coltharp and Hulshof were dispatched. In the meantime, Cromer told dispatch that her husband had “gouged” one of his hands but declined medical assistance.

According to dash-cam video, the dispatcher notified the officers while they were on the way to the scene that the situation had calmed down. The lawsuit states the dispatcher told the officers there was “no need to respond.” The officers replied they would respond because they were “about 40 seconds out.”

Koss, the police chief, disputes that the dispatcher told the officers they could turn around.

“Regardless of what information is provided, we were responding to a domestic assault, and we’re going to continue on until we get to the residence,” Koss said.

Once the officers arrived, Coltharp can be heard telling Hulshof, “Let’s just go ahead and secure her.”

Hulshof responds, “Somebody needs to go away, that’s for sure.”

The complaint states that when the officers entered the home, Carron was sitting calmly at a table, and her husband was standing near the door.

“Without warning or just cause, Defendant Coltharp grabbed Plaintiff, spun her around and threw her to the floor,” the complaint states. “As Defendant Coltharp threw her to the floor, Plaintiff’s head struck the corner of a chair and then the floor, causing her head to immediately start bleeding.”

Carron’s husband is seen on the body-camera video telling the officers his wife has a mental illness, and she recently underwent elbow surgery. He asks the officers to avoid cuffing her hands behind her back.

One officer responds, “I can’t do that right now … until she calms down.”

‘There was no reason for that’

The video shows Carron’s husband pick up the phone to call 911 again. He tells the officers he wants to make sure an ambulance is on the way.

“There was no reason for that,” Carron’s husband says. “She was just sitting there, and he just threw her on the ground and smashed her face.”

He later added, “She’s mentally ill, and everybody knows that. You should have known that on your way here, and then you do this to her?”

He called 911 again.

“I want the state police up here, because my wife was just assaulted by these police officers,” Carron’s husband says on an audio recording of the call. “There’s blood all over the floor.”

Carron’s lawyers say police reports the officers filed contradict the videos. Coltharp wrote in his report that Carron’s feet came out from under her while he was attempting to “escort her to the ground.”

Hulshof wrote in his report that he “did not observe Officer Coltharp use any use of force takedowns.”

Carron’s attorney David Williams said Wednesday he believes the officers formed “criminal intent” to assault Carron.

“There was no reason to arrest her, rough her up or cuff her,” Williams said.

Police Chief Koss said he could provide little detail about the situation. But, he added, “not everything is as it appears, or what’s trying to be portrayed.”

Carron’s lawyers said the body-camera footage is compelling evidence.

“This just can’t be how we respond and treat folks in our community who suffer from mental illness,” Brooks McArthur said.