Police Officer’s Bruised Ego Results in City Paying $290,000 Settlement to Victim

Preston Sowl receives settlement after excessive force by Loveland Police officers
Preston Sowl

It Started as Just a Call for Medical Assistance

(CO) – In September of 2019, a call was made for an ambulance due to a motorcycle accident. Emergency medical personnel arrived, along with police officers from the Loveland Police Department. The accident turned out to be a man losing his balance on his motorcycle and falling over. Motorcycles can be very heavy and can cause severe damage even when just tipping over while stopped.

Loveland Police Officer Resorts to Excessive Force

Preston Sowl was at the location. Mr. Sowl first said “we pulled it off.” Later he says he did not pull it off. It doesn’t matter. Preston Sowl is either a bystander or a witness. Officer Paul Ashe says, “Okay, you want to come and talk to me.” Mr. Sowl responds with, “I don’t know what happened. I’m not talking to nobody.” Officer Ashe says incredulously, “Really?” Sowl says “These guys saw what happened. I didn’t.”

Officer Ashe then tells Sowl he can leave. Sowl takes offense at the dismissive attitude and tells Officer Ashe he is dismissed. The two begin arguing. Officer Ashe insists that Sowl is required to answer his questions. Sowl says he has a constitutional right to refuse to answer. Officer Ashe gets angry and takes Mr. Sowl to the ground, placing him under arrest. He informs Mr. Sowl that he is being arrested for obstructing a police officer and their famous go to charge, resisting arrest.

Civil Rights Violation

Guess what? Preston Sowl was correct. According to his civil rights attorney, Sarah Schielke, “It is long-established that a citizen cannot be charged with obstruction (or any crime) for merely refusing to answer police questioning.” How could the officers not know this? Even suspects don’t have to talk. What do these police officers think the Miranda warning is about? Why in the world would they think someone, who wasn’t even a suspect, is required to speak to them? This is unbelievable incompetence.

Mr. Sowl demanded to speak to a supervisor. I didn’t see a sergeant in the video, but the civil lawsuit names three additional individuals, other than Ashe and the agency. Those individuals are, Officer Benjamin DeLima, Detective Clint Schnorr and Sergeant Brian Bartnes. It appears that a supervisor, in this case a sergeant, did arrive at the location.

The patrol officers should have known Mr. Sowl didn’t have to speak to them. But at the very least, the detective and definitely the sergeant should have known. The sergeant is a supervisor. He is supposed to be able to make decisions that follow the law. He is supposed to know what civil rights people have. Yet no one put a stop to this arrest.

Ego Overrules Common Sense

The biggest problem with police officers is ego. Though Officer Ashe does say please at some points, he is still letting his ego get in the way. Police officers are taught to de-escalate situations. I know it doesn’t appear that way, but they really are taught that. This was a simple medical emergency. Instead, Officer Ashe turned it into an arrest because someone wasn’t figuratively saying ‘how high’ when he said, ‘jump.’ All Officer Ashe had to do was turn away from Mr. Sowl and go back to addressing the situation. Instead he chose to abuse his authority in his need to teach Mr. Sowl a lesson.

Internal Affairs Investigation

An Internal Affairs investigation was conducted. It concluded that “the witness had not committed a crime and the officer was not justified in arresting him.” This was a no-brainer since they had video evidence. In addition, the city released information on the policies and procedures that were violated by Ashe. Those are: 1.02: Limits of Authority and Exercise of Discretion, 13.08: Search and Seizure, 11.04: Use of Force.

Here’s what you have. The officers didn’t know their job. They used excessive force on and individual that caused serious bodily injury. They violated a person’s civil rights. Want to guess what the police chief recommended as a consequence for their actions? A warning and additional training. That’s it. Truly pathetic.

Civil Lawsuit Results in Settlement

The excessive force used on Preston Sowl resulted in damage to his shoulder that required surgery. The Internal Affairs investigation found the officers in the wrong. Yet the city was fighting the lawsuit. To end a long, drawn out, expensive process, Mr. Sowl, through his attorney, decided to accept the settlement.

The bad thing is, when a settlement is agreed to, it’s common that “the settlement states the city and officers do not admit any guilt in this case.” That’s exactly what happened in this instance. It means the officers were never found guilty for their abuse. Should there be future cases against them, they can claim they were not found guilty of using excessive force.

I’m not sure why this video of what the officer did is messing up my code but you can see it here on YouTube.

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