21 Oct HHEG Sues Kiowa County and Officers for the Deadly Police Shooting of Zach Gifford
HHEG has just filed a federal lawsuit to redress the outrageous shooting death of Zach Gifford by law enforcement.
The lawsuit names the former Undersheriff of Kiowa County, Tracy Weisenhorn, a former Deputy, Quentin Stump, the former Kiowa Sheriff, Casey Sheridan, and Kiowa County.
Mr. Gifford was a passenger in a vehicle stopped for failing to signal a right turn onto a dirt road.
When Mr. Gifford tried to run away from the officers, they shot him in the back and killed him.
Undersheriff Weisenhorn and Deputy Stump aimed at his fleeing back and shot four times. He was hit three times, causing him to collapse and die in an empty field located in a town called Brandon in the eastern plains of Colorado. Brandon is often described as a ghost town.
Zach was known to be unarmed, was not threatening the officers or anyone else, made no threatening gestures, displayed no weapon and was running away from the officers. He was suspected, at most, of misdemeanor drug possession. While being shot at repeatedly, Zach ran approaching 100 yards away from where shooting began.
Kiowa County is also sued because it has a custom of allowing such deadly force to be used against fleeing suspects who are not posing an imminent threat to anyone.
The Supreme Court has long made clear that police cannot arrest people by shooting them to death when they are not a threat to the officers or public.
Defendant Deputy Stump had used deadly force in two prior incidents without justification and yet Kiowa County imposed no discipline and required no officer retraining regarding the constitutional constraints on deploying deadly force.
Even after Deputy Stump shot nine times at the back of a driver in a vehicle that was not threatening him, Kiowa County Sheriff’s Office did nothing. Reportedly, the Sheriff of Kiowa County was advised to fire Deputy Stump after he fired those nine shots in 2019. Deputy Stump has admitted the man did not pose a threat to him at the time of this shooting and he just wanted to end the pursuit.
His egregious use of deadly force in prior incidents resulted in the eluding and vehicular charges against those suspects being dismissed.
At the time of the killing of Zach Gifford, Deputy Stump was under a suspension for insubordination issued by Undersheriff Weisenhorn.
Continuing Kiowa County’s tolerance of unconstitutional deadly force policy, Tracy Weisenhorn fired the first shot at Zach Gifford as he was running away from her. The final shot by Deputy Stump was taken 18 seconds after the 3rd shot. At that time, Zach was 24 yards away from where Deputy Stump was shooting.
Undersheriff Weisenhorn, who was watching, did nothing to intervene to stop Deputy Stump from firing the final shot despite a long 18 second opportunity. Her failure to intervene further demonstrated Kiowa County’s policy that it is perfectly permissible to shoot fleeing suspects dead where they are posing no threat to the officers or anyone else.
Even after the killing of Zachary Gifford, there was no discipline or retraining concerning the constitutional restraints on the use of deadly force by officers.
Zach Gifford suffered a horrible end. He was beloved by his family and his community and there has been a continuing outcry from the Eads community about his killing. He was well known for his service to others, had a rich life which he greatly enjoyed and was only 39 years old.
You can read articles from COLab, Westword, 9News, Colorado Sun and the Denver Post.
Here is a copy of the Complaint that was filed.