Aurora police receive training on how identify, aid seizure-sufferers as part of lawsuit settlement

Seizure-stricken man said officers assaulted him

AURORA, Colo. - Aurora police officers are receiving training on how to identify and help someone having a seizure as part of the settlement of a federal lawsuit filed by a man who said officers assaulted him as he was lying unconscious after a seizure.

The city also paid $100,000 to the estate of the late Rickey Burrell, 54, of Aurora. Burrell died of cancer in December before the settlement was reached, said his attorney, Mari Newman.

Newman called the mandatory training for Aurora officers Burrell's "legacy."

"When Rickey came to me, his number one priority was to make sure that this didn't happen to anybody else," she said.

The lawsuit stemmed from how three police officers responded to Burrell having a seizure while napping in the bedroom of his Aurora home on Dec. 18, 2010.

His wife, Evelyn King, found Burrell incoherent and suffering from the seizure and asked her niece to call 911 for medical help, according to the lawsuit. The niece told the 911 dispatcher that Burrell had had a seizure and had a history of seizures.

Aurora firefighters and paramedics responded to the home, but waited while two police officers entered first.

The lawsuit said Burrell was unconscious, lying facedown on the bed in his underwear when police arrived.

"Unfortunately, instead of treating him like patient, the officers treated like a criminal," Newman told 7NEWS. "They put their knees in his back, wrenched his arms behind him and cuffed him and broke his wrist."

Eventually, Burrell regained consciousness, crying out in pain and imploring "the officers to stop hurting him, as he had done nothing wrong," the lawsuit said.

The officers, however, dragged the handcuffed man downstairs in his underwear and out into the cold winter weather, humiliating the man in front of his family and neighbors, the lawsuit said.

The ordeal "made his family afraid to call 911 when he had medical issues. And nobody should be afraid to call 911," Newman said.

Newman said Aurora isn't the only law enforcement agency to aggressively respond to someone suffering a seizure.

She said that police officers who lack proper training often confuse a seizure-sufferer for someone who is intoxicated or on drugs.

But Newman lauded the Aurora Police Department's for embracing the new training.

"Aurora has now, to their credit, agreed to do the right thing," she said.

7NEWS couldn't reach Aurora officials for comment late Tuesday afternoon.

Yet Aurora City Attorney Charlie Richardson told the Denver Post that city officials had been looking to improve training for seizure-recognition, so "the settlement of this case dovetailed well with our wanting to do some training."

Officers have started receiving the training based on information from the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado, said Aurora police spokeswoman Sgt. Cassidee Carlson who has just taken the course.

Carlson told the newspaper that officers had been given basic information about an array of medical conditions including seizure disorders, but the new training is more comprehensive, with videos and testimony from patients, she said.