U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty recommended a dismissal with prejudice of a case brought against law enforcement, paramedics, doctors and hospital staff. The judge also ruled that most defendants in the case should be granted qualified immunity for their actions.
Jeremiah Axtell, the plaintiff in the case, sued 13 defendants including the City of Lakewood, several individual police officers, West Metro Fire Protection District, a paramedic and two physicians, alleging numerous federal and state violations stemming from a June, 2020 arrest.
Axtell’s claims included excessive force, unlawful arrest and failure to provide adequate medical care. His allegations also highlighted the forcible injection of the drug ketamine, which was given to him by a paramedic at the scene of his arrest.
The use of ketamine has been widely scrutinized of late, due to potentially fatal respiratory problems. It is sometimes used as a sedative by law enforcement or paramedics in situations where a diagnosis of “excited delirium” has been made.
According to information contained in the Judge’s ruling, West Metro in 2019 “was one of 63 agencies that received waivers to use ketamine in a pre-hospital setting for patients who met the clinical criteria for excited delirium and/or extreme or profound agitation.”
West Metro Fire Rescue administered the drug to Axtell at the scene of his arrest after he had been handcuffed. He disputes its necessity, saying he was cooperative with authorities when taken into custody.
Further complicating the matter, Axtell is the boyfriend of Lakewood Councilwoman and attorney, Anita Springsteen.
Springsteen, a frequent critic of the City’s handling of law enforcement matters, also has been vocal in her opposition to ketamine use, particularly after the case of 23-year-old Elijah McClain, who died after being injected with an excessive ketamine dose during a 2019 arrest in Aurora.
In his decision regarding Axtell’s Excessive Force accusation against Lakewood PD, Hegarty pointed to a ‘reasonableness standard’ set forth in the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In his ruling, Hegarty quoted from the case Graham v. Connor, which holds the ‘reasonableness standard’ should be “judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with 20/20 vision of hindsight.”