Fort Collins police pepper-sprayed man in the face from 2 inches away while attempting to ticket him
A man this week sued Fort Collins and two of its police officers, alleging that, in 2021, they used excessive force and pepper-sprayed his face from two inches away while attempting to issue the man a summons for a reported trespassing incident.
Attorneys for Fort Collins resident Andru Kulas, who filed the civil suit Sunday, said the police officers violated his First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution when they used excessive force and “wrongfully seized and arrested” Kulas on Aug. 29, 2021.
The lawsuit names the city of Fort Collins and two officers, Kevin Park and Avery Hanzlicek, and states their actions caused Kulas to “endure pain, suffering, humiliation, emotional distress, anxiety, terror, attorney fees and other damages.”
On Aug. 28, 2021, Kulas and some friends were out drinking after his father suddenly passed away a month prior, the lawsuit states. At about 1:50 a.m. on Aug. 29, police officers contacted Kulas near the intersection of College and Mountain avenues in Old Town Fort Collins about a reported trespassing on the roof of a nearby bar.
Kulas was not trespassing when officers contacted him.
Kulas reportedly explained the reasoning for going to the rooftop, according to the lawsuit, saying he and another man in his group were looking for a group of men who had pushed their female friend.
“The officers ignored these comments,” the lawsuit states. “The officers’ inaction and lack of concern for Mr. Byers’s girlfriend led Mr. Kulas to begin making several comments critical of the police officers.”
Body-worn camera footage released with the lawsuit’s announcement by Kulas’ attorney, Sarah Schielke, shows Kulas saying the officers don’t care about his friend and making other comments about the officers.
An officer wrote Kulas a summons for the trespassing report, but Kulas refused to take the summons, which the lawsuit states is within his rights.
The lawsuit alleges Park was angry about Kulas’ comments and wanted to retaliate, so when Kulas did not take the summons, Park took it from the other officer and further attempted to give it to Kulas.
“Park, demonstrating that he knew that Mr. Kulas had the right to decline accepting the physical summons, told Mr. Kulas that if he didn’t have the summons, he wouldn’t know his court date, and then when he missed his court date, a warrant would issue for his arrest,” according to the lawsuit.
Kulas said he would have his attorney find out the court date, so he could attend, but Park walked toward Kulas and still tried to give him the summons.
Kulas then pushed Park’s hand away, the body-worn camera footage shows, and Park grabbed Kulas’ jacket.
Kulas then went to the ground, and officers, including Park and Hanzlicek, attempted to detain him.
During the struggle, officers gave Kulas several commands that the lawsuit states he was unable to comply with because of the officers’ use of force against him, and Park fired his pepper spray directly into Kulas’ face from two inches away.
Kulas was put in jail for 36 hours and charged with obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest. All charges against him were later dismissed.
The lawsuit states that after Kulas got out of jail, he was “functionally blind” due to the pepper spray, couldn’t work for several days and continues to have vision problems two years later.
Kulas later filed a complaint against Park.
The Fort Collins Police Services professional standard unit’s investigation exonerated Park for his actions, but Kulas’ attorney received a copy of the report through an open records request.
“Incredibly, the 29-page report openly admitted that the Defendant officers had no lawful reason to detain or use force on Mr. Kulas. Internal affairs plainly found multiple policy violations by the officers, both with respect to the unlawful seizure and with respect to the excessive force utilized,” according to the lawsuit.