17-year-old pepper-sprayed inside patrol car after she refused to 'calm down'

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10:05 - Body cam 1
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Colorado Springs Police officers handcuffed and pepper-sprayed a 17-year-old girl twice inside a patrol car after she refused orders to sit down and "calm down," a lawsuit filed against the officers Friday alleged.

The lawsuit, filed by Denver civil rights attorney David Lane, said the officers pepper-sprayed Amara Keens-Dumas on the forehead and in the eyes, then closed the door of a patrol car with Keens-Dumas inside.

"She was essentially imprisoned in a gas chamber with no esc," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit filed in El Paso County District Court claims officers used excessive use of force in violation of the state constitution. It names the individual officers – not their department – and seeks unspecified damages.

A Colorado Springs Police Department spokesperson declined to answer questions about the incident Monday and said the department is "unable to provide a comment on pending litigation."

The incident began when officers Ryan Yoshimiya and Brianna Ragsdale responded to a call that a woman was "screaming and crying" outside an apartment complex around 3:45 a.m. on Oct. 17, 2020, the lawsuit said. Yoshimiya and Ragsdale had responded to the same location about 45 minutes earlier after Keens-Dumas and her boyfriend got into an argument and a bystander called the police.

Upon arriving at the complex for the second time, the officers "saw Ms. Keens-Dumas sitting on the street in a distraught state, crying and yelling," the lawsuit said. It said Keens-Dumas was "verbally uncooperative" with the officers, put her hands behind her back and "told [Officer] Ragsdale to arrest her."

"We're going to a hospital because you want to keep acting like this," one officer can be heard saying.

The lawsuit said Ragsdale handcuffed Keens-Dumas "in exasperation" for obstructing the officers. Police body camera video provided by Lane to 9NEWS shows Ragsdale and Yoshimiya struggling to put Keens-Dumas in a patrol car as she yells "Don't ----- touch me." The officers force Keens-Dumas to the ground, the suit said.

In another snippet of video, Keens-Dumas screams at officers, "Give me my phone" and "I want my mom. I'm a minor." On the video, she can be heard telling officers she was having a panic attack.

In another part of the video, Keens-Dumas can be heard kicking the inside of the patrol car. An officer can be heard saying, "I'm about to spray her if she doesn't stop."

As Keens-Dumas continued to yell to officers "give me my phone call now" and that she wanted to speak with her , an officer replies "if you don't stop, you're going to get OC'ed," according to the body camera video. Oleoresin capsi (OC) is the main component within pepper spray.

A supervisor, Sgt. Gregory Wilhelmi, arrived at the scene and asks, "Has she been sprayed?" The officers respond that she has not and Wilhelmi ordered "spray her," according to the video and lawsuit.

Keens-Dumas said, "Give me my phone call" repeatedly before Wilhelmi sprayed her with pepper spray twice, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit says she was still handcuffed and officers closed the doors to the patrol car with her inside.

"Keens-Dumas continued to cry and scream for her mom and for help as she sat in horrific pain," the lawsuit said. "The pepper spray burned her eyes, face, throat, lungs, hands and feet."

EMS arrived more than 10 minutes later and flushed some of the pepper spray out of Keens-Dumas' eyes, the lawsuit said. She was brought to a police station and released to the custody of her , it said.

"She wasn’t doing anything," Lane said. "She wasn’t doing anything wrong. She wasn’t violating any laws, but the police focused on her. And when she wouldn’t calm down this was their response."

He said she wants accountability from the police department. Lane suggested prosecution or termination of the officers involved, but said both were unlikely to happen.

"So the best I can do is try to wake up the people of Colorado Springs with a gigantic jury verdict that they are going to have to pay for," Lane said. "And finally have the people of Colorado Springs say 'We’re going to have to do something. We keep paying out millions and millions and millions of dollars to people who are being abused by our police.'"

All three officers are listed as certified by the state and employed by the Colorado Springs Department. The department's Facebook page shows Wilhelmi was awarded Employee of the Month in January 2011 while working as a detective. Ragsdale was awarded Emergency Response Technician of the Year for her work in 2015.

Lane said Keens-Dumas has physically recovered and now lives and attends school out of state.

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