Kremmling officers, plaintiff testify in excessive force lawsuit
DENVER — The civil trial of Robert Mark Smith vs. Kremmling continued Tuesday at the Byron White U.S. Courthouse in Denver, providing jurors a chance to hear testimony from two of the accused police officers and Smith himself.
Smith took the stand to begin the day, completing a round of questioning that began on the first day of the trial Monday. Officer Robert Dillon and Sgt. Todd Willson of the Kremmling Police Department followed Smith, later provided their account of the night in question.
Smith filed a lawsuit against the town of Kremmling, Dillon, Willson and Kremmling Police Chief Scott Spade in March 2015. The complaint alleged that Kremmling officers, along with Dan Mayer, Mike Reed and Zachary Luchs of the Grand County Sheriff’s Office used excessive force while arresting Smith, after entering his home illegally. Luchs has since left the Grand County Sheriff’s Office.
While being questioned Tuesday, Smith told the court that he and a woman were at his house in early March 2013 in the mobile home park he owns in Kremmling. He said the woman was asleep and he was in the shower when Dillon “banged” on his door at close to 9 p.m.
Officers were performing a welfare check on a woman staying with Smith after receiving a call from a concerned friend regarding an argument between the two. Because of the potentially sensitive nature of the incident, Sky-Hi News has decided not to publish the name of the woman staying with Smith.
Smith testified that he answered the door and saw Dillon standing in his yard, and told him that he had no business there and to leave.
He said Dillon then jerked the door out of his hand and tackled him into his kitchen. Smith said he didn’t try to resist, but tried to maintain balance. At that point additional officers entered the house, used a stun gun on him three times, pinned him to the ground and beat him in the head and ribs, according to Smith’s testimony.
He also said that at least two officers took out their firearms and pointed them at him, one against his head, and that the weight of the officers restricted his breathing.
Spade was not at the house. “I assume he was calling the shots,” said Smith.
Dillon and Willson painted a different picture of the incident when they took the stand.
Dillon testified that after receiving the welfare check, he called the woman’s friend to get more details about the situation. He said she told him that her friend was staying with a tall man, named Mark, among other details, that led him to suspect it was Smith.
He drove by Smith’s house three or four times before parking at a carwash about half a block away. Dillon called Willson and the Grand County Sheriff’s Office for back-up because he suspected there could be domestic violence involved. An Officer Lyons from the Colorado State Patrol also responded to the call.
Dillon said he had a history with Smith and that officer safety was also a concern. Both officers, Dillon and Willson, had arrested Smith for allegedly harassing a former town councilor in 2008.
Dillon said that while in the house he noticed a handgun and an M1 Garand rifle hanging on the wall. Smith corroborated that he keeps two guns on his wall.
Dillon said he told the responding officers to avoid being seen by Smith. He said one or two officers went to the back of the house and the others were somewhere behind him while he approached the door.
He said he knocked on the door and asked if the woman was there. Smith responded that she was asleep, but Dillon told Smith that he needed to see her. Smith then told him to leave, and asked to see a warrant. Dillon said Smith then tried to force the door closed.
Dillon never told Smith about the call from the woman’s friend, saying he never gave him a chance. Smith said Dillon said something about the woman only as he was ripping the door open, and doesn’t recall Dillon asking about her well-being.
Dillon and the other officers entered the house without a warrant or consent, claiming exigent circumstances.
Dillon said he stopped Smith from closing the door and stepped in front of where he remembered the guns to be. He said he blocked several punches from Smith before a “couple” of officers entered the house and subdued Smith. Dillon said he then left the room to look for the woman.
Willson said he was the one to deploy his Taser, but that it didn’t fire correctly. Dillon said he heard the “pop” from the other room, but never heard electricity transfer. Smith said he was stunned in the right arm and shoulder, and that the Taser was placed against his chest and discharged.
No photographic evidence of Smith’s Taser wounds were entered into evidence.
Dillon said Smith stopped resisting after being handcuffed. He was then taken to Grand County Jail in Hot Sulphur Springs.
Dillon said that he found the woman awake in the next room. Lyons said that he found the woman and had to wake her, according to prosecuting attorneys citing Lyons’s deposition from 2016. Lyons has not yet testified.
The woman was drunk when law enforcement officers found her. Smith said he drinks on occasion, but never purchased alcohol while with the woman.
According to Dillon’s testimony, the woman had bruises on her arms “consistent with grabbing,” and that she screamed when an officer touched her arm. Dillon said the woman told him not to arrest Smith, and that he might be mad or try and hurt her.
Lyons, who was also in the room, again provided a different account of the events according to the prosecuting attorneys citing a signed affidavit from Lyons. Senior District Judge Richard Matsch asked the prosecution to wait until Lyons testifies to question him about the night.
Before being taken away by an ambulance, Dillon said the woman told him that Smith “hurt her.”
Smith was arrested on charges of domestic violence, obstruction, resisting arrest, and attempted assault on an officer. No officers were injured, and all charges against Smith were dismissed by the district attorney.
Smith has a long history of issues with Kremmling. He was cited for violations regarding water taps at his mobile home park. He filed a lawsuit against the town, but action was never taken. Smith claims that the town was “selectively enforcing” laws, and that he was not being treated the same as others in similar situations.
Dillon said that he has known Smith since he was a customer at a convenience store he used to own in Kremmling in around 1993. He said Smith and himself never had a conflict until the harassment arrest in 2008. Dillon claims Spade, Willson and himself decided Dillon should arrest Smith because he had the best relationship of the three.
According to Dillon, Spade and Willson were present, but didn’t come in the house during the 2008 arrest. He said that Smith told him he would have shot Spade or Willson if they came in instead of him.
Both Dillon and Willson testified that Smith is consistently rude whenever he sees them.
Dillon said that Smith flips him off when he sees him and approaches him aggressively, but stops when asked to. He also claimed that Smith assaulted him by grabbing him by the shoulder at an event, though Smith claimed it never happened.
Willson said Smith, who is his neighbor, spits on the ground when he sees him, and that Smith has stormed into his garage. He also testified that Smith once purposefully crashed a grocery cart into his, and that he once witnessed Smith chasing a man with a shovel on his mobile home property.
The trial continues this morning at 9 a.m.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grand County make the Sky-Hi News' work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User