COLORADO SPRINGS — A local Black Lives Matter protester is suing the Colorado Springs Police Department and specific members of the department, claiming last summer during the George Floyd protests excessive force was used that resulted in a brain injury.
27-year-old Celia Palmer told News5 she has lived in the Colorado Springs area for around nine years, after graduating from Colorado College. She participated in a handful of George Floyd protests in the days immediately following May 25, 2020. On June 2, Palmer said she and a friend were attempting to leave the downtown area, after being ordered to disperse. "Continuing to attempt to get out of there, when we were both tackled from behind without warning... My head hit the ground really hard when I was initially tackled. It's been more than a year and I'm still having brain injury symptoms," said Palmer.
"I knew that what happened to me was messed up from the moment it happened."
In the lawsuit filed by Palmer's attorney, it claims Palmer and her friend were tackled from behind without warning by Sergeant Keith Wrede and Officer Wesley Woodworth. Palmer was arrested, taken to the El Paso County Jail, and charged with failure to disperse from riot conditions, according to her attorney, Andrew McNulty. McNulty says Palmer was prosecuted for this crime in an attempt to cover up excessive force. "It ended up getting dismissed, but not until November. So, there were like five different court appearances I had to make where basically nothing happened, before they were like, 'oh we actually don't have a case against this person because they didn't do anything,'" said Palmer.
CLICK HERE to read the full lawsuit filed on July 14.
Over a year later, Palmer said she still suffers from symptoms of a brain injury. She said she was diagnosed with midline shift, which means her brain's perception of what is centered is off. "Bumping into stuff, extreme fatigue and sensitivity to light and sound because your brain is like, basically spending so much energy trying to figure out where you are in space that it can't do other things as well," explained Palmer.
News5 reached out to the Colorado Springs Police Department for a response to this lawsuit. A spokesperson sent the following: “CSPD appreciates News5 reaching out to our organization to discuss this incident, but we are unable to speak on any matter that is under litigation.”
One of the CSPD members named in the lawsuit is Sergeant Keith Wrede, who posted "kill them all" under a pseudonym on a social media live-stream of protesters blocking I-25 on June 30, 2020. That was almost a month after the alleged excessive force regarding Palmer. "This is a problem that's broader than just this case. It shows a pattern of this kind of behavior. But it's one of the most egregious examples of police brutality at a protest that I've seen," said McNulty, who claims the social media post lends insight into Sergeant Wrede's mentality regarding protesters.
Sergeant Wrede was disciplined for the comments on social media with a 40-hour suspension (which results in approximately $2,044 in lost wages), the removal from his specialized unit, and reassignment to a different position within the department. Chief Vince Niski called those words "unprofessional, distasteful, and not reflective of our department."
McNulty said the sweeping police accountability bill passed last summer does not apply to this case because it was signed into law after the incident with Palmer.