Police officer hogtied Logan County man; left feet and hands tied together for more than 10 minutes

A Colorado police officer hogtied a man for refusing to step out of his doorway and then left him restrained facedown in the back of his patrol car for more than 10 minutes.

The three officers who arrested Christian Weitzel on Oct. 9, 2020, used excessive force when they held him to the ground and tied his handcuffed hands to his restrained feet and jailed him on false charges, according to a civil rights lawsuit filed Friday against the officers. All criminal charges against Weitzel were dismissed at the request of prosecutors.

“Mr. Weitzel did not fight the officers but was simply standing stationary in his doorway when he was grabbed, swung outside, and tackled to the ground by Defendant McDaniel and then hogtied by defendants,” the lawsuit states.

Many law enforcement agencies in Colorado and across the country ban officers from hogtying people because it can limit a person’s ability to breathe. The U.S. Department of Justice in 1995 warned officers the risk of positional suffocation is heightened if a person is involved in a struggle and then left facedown while being restrained from behind.

But that’s exactly what Sterling police Officer Paul McDaniel did when he responded to Weitzel’s house on a neighbor’s call about a verbal fight, body camera footage of the arrest shows.

McDaniel knocked on the door and a woman stepped out of the home. She told McDaniel it was “just an argument,” body camera footage of the incident shows.

Weitzel then appeared in the doorway and McDaniel told him to step onto the porch to talk. Weitzel refused three times by saying “I’m cool” and McDaniel grabbed Weitzel’s arm and forced him facedown into the grass. The entire conversation between McDaniel and Weitzel lasted 10 seconds before McDaniel used force.

McDaniel and two other officers — Sterling police Officer Matt Williams and Logan County Sheriff’s Deputy Alton McGuffin — held Weitzel on the ground and handcuffed him. Weitzel repeatedly told the officers he was not resisting.

The video does not show Weitzel kick his legs before McDaniel used a strap, called a hobble, to tie his ankles together. McDaniel then bent Weitzel’s legs and connected the ankle strap to the handcuffs, placing Weitzel in a hogtie position. The officers then picked Weitzel up by his shoulders and slid him facedown into McDaniel’s patrol car, where he remained hogtied for more than 10 minutes, the body camera footage shows. Weitzel repeatedly told McDaniel he was in pain.

At the jail, McDaniel told deputies Weitzel should be booked on suspicion of disorderly conduct, obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest. He later said “it sounds like nothing DV-related even happened,” referring to domestic violence.

All criminal charges against Weitzel were dismissed March 1, 2021, at the request of prosecutors, according to the lawsuit and court records.

McDaniel left the Sterling Police Department in February 2021, Chief Tyson Kerr said in an email in response to questions from The Denver Post. State records show McDaniel is not currently working as a law enforcement officer in Colorado.

Kerr declined to comment further on the incident, citing the pending lawsuit. He did not answer questions about whether McDaniel or Williams were disciplined in connection to Weitzel’s arrest or about the department’s policy on hogtying. The department did not fulfill a records request filed by The Denver Post for that policy and disciplinary records filed prior to the deadline for this story.

McDaniel did not have a legal reason to detain Weitzel when he decided to take him to the ground, said James Roberts, Weitzel’s attorney. Weitzel did not suffer significant injury from the arrest besides soreness and bruising, but he had to deal with the stress of a criminal case for six months.

The violation of Weitzel’s civil rights undermined his trust in police, Roberts said.

“If we wait to hold officers accountable until they kill someone, that’s too late,” Roberts said.

Both Aurora and Denver police departments ban their officers from connecting arrestees’ restrained ankles directly to their handcuffed hands. Twenty-two of the 30 largest police departments in the country banned officers from hogtying people, according to an NBC News investigation.

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