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Agencies pay families of shooting victims, despite rulings they were justified

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Kathryn Guy unsuccessfully sued the city of Colorado Springs after police shot and killed her son, James. - KAREN ROBARDS
  • Karen Robards
  • Kathryn Guy unsuccessfully sued the city of Colorado Springs after police shot and killed her son, James.

All but three officer-involved shootings since 2001 have been ruled as justified by district attorneys and a grand jury in the 4th Judicial District. The other three are pending.

But those rulings didn’t stop two agencies from paying sizable settlement payments to end litigation arising from those justified shootings.

• El Paso County paid $300,000 in 2013 to the family of Christine Vargas, 27, who was shot and killed in 2011 on South Nevada Avenue after she turned her car toward deputies and drove over the foot of Deputy Marcus Miller as they tried to serve a felony warrant.

• The City of Fountain paid $450,000 in August 2018 to Elizabeth Alvar, the mother of Patrick O’Grady, 17, who was killed by Officer Jonathan Kay in a Sept. 24, 2015, shooting, despite the District Attorney’s Office finding, in December 2015, that the shooting was justified.

While Thomas Villanueva wasn’t shot by officers, he was caught in crossfire between them and suspected felon Manuel Zetina on Feb. 5, 2018. A bullet from Zetina’s gun paralyzed him from the chest down, and Villanueva filed a lawsuit against multiple agencies on Feb. 1, 2019.

Several people who were shot by law officers and survived have filed lawsuits, but all have been dismissed, according to a court records search.

Kathryn Guy, the mother of James Guy, 22, killed in his backyard on April 22, 2011, filed a lawsuit that spanned more than three years — May 2012 until November 2015 — but she ultimately lost when a federal judge ruled, “The use of deadly force was ... both reasonable and constitutional.”

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