Following a public outcry and the circulation of a video on the Internet and cable news stations of a streaker getting tasered at the Sonic Bloom Festival in Georgetown last weekend, police say they will immediately investigate the excessive force allegations.
“As a matter of practice, we review every use of force complaint on every deputy,” said Captain Bruce Snelling of the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office. On top of complaints on social media and the YouTube video, Snelling said he received about 20 calls and 15 to 20 emails both praising and deploring the officer’s behavior.
On Sunday afternoon, Clear Creek County deputies responded to reports of a naked man running around the electronic music festival. According to Snelling, the man was acting irrationally, and when officers couldn’t wrangle the man, they were forced to physically detain and tazer him. Snelling was unsure how many times the man was tasered.
Crowds who witnessed the altercation soon became angry with the officer’s behavior, shouting insults and accusations of police brutality, as the YouTube video shows.
“They brutally took him down, tackled him into a ditch and repeatedly tasered him,” former Sonic Bloom spokeswoman and witness Ami Heinrich told The Denver Post on Monday. “I believe they may have overreacted and detained the man in a way that could be considered excessive force.”
As the video shows, the man was then taken from the scene in a stretcher as the crowd grew angrier. Clear Creek County then brought in extra deputies, including a SWAT team to deal with the “unruly” crowd, Snelling said.
“I won’t pass judgement (on the officer’s behavior), because I don’t know if the video paints a complete picture,” said Snelling, who is waiting on a complete police report that outlines the situation. “Part of our job is not only to protect everybody from one another, a lot of times our job is to protect people from themselves.”
The excessive force investigation will launch immediately, and if an officer is found to have been completely out of line, he could be terminated, Snelling said. This process takes a couple of weeks, and it includes reviewing any available video, interviewing deputies involved and assembling experts on tasers and forceful arrests.
“I am very disappointed that the option of the taser was utilized in this incident,” said Sonic Bloom producer Jamie Janover in a statement. “It was an incredibly challenging day for all of us, as this was a disturbing and heartbreaking thing for us to witness.”
Before the taser incident on Sunday, a man was found dead in a tent in the Sonic Bloom Festival campgrounds. He has been identified as 34-year-old Boulder resident Nolan Farrell. The cause of death is still unknown, but Snelling said there was no sign of struggle or anything suspicious. Toxicology reports could take two to six weeks.