Father and son could face assault charges for ‘citizen’s arrest’ beating
Pueblo police have referred assault charges to 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner in connection to a violent 2022 citizen's arrest involving a volunteer Pueblo County Sheriff's Office SWAT medic and his son.
PCSO medic Doug Cullison and his amateur MMA fighter son, Nate Cullison, are accused of violently detaining and beating a man in September 2022. The investigation initially was dropped by the Pueblo Police Department, which later asserted that "technical issues" hampered the investigation.
In early April, the investigation was reopened after a video surfaced showing the Cullisons' violent takedown of a suspect accused of assaulting Doug Cullison's wife, a teacher at a nearby school.
Chostner confirmed Tuesday his office has received the referral for third-degree assault charges against Doug and Nate Cullison and his office is currently reviewing them.
Video of the citizen's arrest, captured on security camera footage taken from outside of Nick's Dairy Crème on the East Side, showed Doug Cullison tackle the individual to the ground. Two unidentified males then approached the scene, and one of them punched the detained man several times while Cullison held him.
Minutes later, the video showed the arrival of Nate Cullison, who sprinted from his vehicle and immediately began striking the downed man. Nate Cullison can be seen on video beating the man while his father holds him, punching, kicking and elbowing him at least 25 times while the restrained man screams for help.
On Sept. 14, the subject of the citizen's arrest and beating was issued a ticket for battery in connection to the alleged assault of Cullison's wife and was released, according to a Pueblo PD report. However, Pueblo Police Chief Chris Noeller told Chieftain news partner KRDO News Channel 13 on Monday that the man's charges have since been upgraded to the same as the Cullisons': third-degree assault.
* Witnesses describe beating in calls to 911
In a 911 call placed by a witness at a nearby business, the witness said that "someone was getting beat up" outside the store. The caller described a man pinning down the victim while two people were "beating the crap out of him."
A second person who contacted police reported that there were "multiple people holding the kid down, and his face was bloody."
One of the callers also noted that the man being beaten was "not fighting back."
Body-worn camera footage provided to the Chieftain by Martin Conti Law, which is representing the victim in the case, showed Doug Cullison claiming to police that the man they detained "was resisting us a bit" so his son Nate came and "helped put him to ground."
Nate Cullison told police that his dad "had him" and that the two of them "had to wrestle him down a bit."
The body camera footage showed the victim with a swollen cheek and blood running down his face. An officer at the scene asked him about his injuries, to which he replied, "I got punched," while sobbing.
* Noeller calls initial investigation a 'series of judgment errors'
Noeller declined to answer questions about the incident when contacted by the Chieftain on Tuesday, and said his statements on the matter would be limited to what he told KRDO on Monday. However, he did say the internal affairs investigation into why the case was not investigated more thoroughly is still ongoing and that no disciplinary action has been determined for any of the four officers involved.
Noeller told KRDO that the charges against the Cullisons were based on the degree of the man's injuries. He noted that Nate Cullison's status as a trained MMA fighter could not elevate the charges against him and stated that if the victim had suffered more serious injuries, the charges could have been more severe.
Noeller told KRDO that the lack of investigation in September was not a "cover-up" related to Doug Cullison's position at the PCSO and was instead a series of judgment errors by all four officers at the scene.
"We are human beings. We make mistakes," Noeller said. "It was a series of judgment errors and mistakes in police work. It shouldn't have ended up the way that it did. There's no doubt we're not happy. Again, I think it would be fair to say that the officers are not happy with the errors that they made."
Shawn Conti, an attorney for the victim in the case, questioned Noeller's statement in an interview with the Chieftain.
"There were way too many mistakes for it to be acceptable," Conti said. "Not only did dispatch (announce) to responding officers that (the victim) was being assaulted, when they arrived at the scene, he presented with blood and was battered all over. That should have immediately tipped them off that it was not what Doug Cullison wanted them to believe."
Conti said police did not take the time to gather witness statements, despite the fact that there were multiple eyewitnesses as well as security camera footage showing exactly what happened.
"There were four officers on scene. Two of them could have gone and interviewed employees at Nick's Dairy Crème, they could have interviewed the skateboarders in front of the store and said, 'Hey, what happened?" Conti said. "Every officer takes an oath to do their best to uphold the law, and they're supposed to do a thorough investigation."
Conti claimed that one individual made several attempts to provide the surveillance footage to a Pueblo police detective investigating the case, but the detective did not follow up.
"What was the disconnect? You have someone saying, 'Listen, I have everything on videotape,' and there was no follow-up on the part of (the detective)." Conti said.
Conti said he hopes the district attorney presses "appropriate" charges against the Cullisons.
"While PPD may have only sent it over for third-degree assault, there's nothing preventing the DA from pressing more serious charges if they find the evidence warrants it," Conti said.
Assault charges have also been referred to Chostner's office for the man accused of assaulting Doug Cullison's wife at the school prior to the citizen's arrest and beating, Conti said.