What started as a routine call involving a petty dispute over a trash bin led to the arrest of a business owner who says an El Paso County Sheriff’s Office sergeant hit him in the face at least twice for no reason.
Now, Adam Nadeau, 42, has threatened to file a lawsuit, saying in his Feb. 2 notice of claim submitted to the county that he suffered a concussion and “emotional trauma” and was falsely arrested in the Aug. 5, 2020, incident that involved 25-year veteran Sgt. Jim Mahan, and Deputy Melissa Lance, on the force since 2017.
Body-worn camera footage and a 39-page internal affairs investigation report depicts a skirmish followed by Mahan drawing his Taser and aiming at Nadeau and a woman who tried to intervene.
Nadeau’s complaint of excessive use of force led to the IA investigation, which found Mahan violated an El Paso County Sheriff’s Office policy, leading to undisclosed “appropriate action,” the office said in a Nov. 30, 2020, letter to Nadeau.
Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jacqueline Reed says via email that “a corrective action measure was taken regarding Sgt. Mahan’s interaction with Mr. Nadeau,” and that he retired earlier this year. No action was taken against Lance.
Reed notes that sustained use of force complaints are rare.
But Nadeau’s attorney, Julian Rosielle, says the assertions in the claim letter “speak for themselves.”
“This type of conduct by those sworn to protect us can never be tolerated,” he says via text message.
Nadeau filed the use-of-force complaint on Aug. 6, the day after the incident, which occurred at his business, Infantry Ink, a tattoo parlor at 1747 B St., just outside Colorado Springs city limits.
Deputies were called about 7:40 p.m. after a confrontation between Nadeau and his brother and two people connected to a Domino’s pizza restaurant in the same strip mall.
The pizza employees found the two men placing bags of trash in the Domino’s trash bin behind the building. When they accused them of improperly dumping trash, Nadeau and his brother reportedly became aggressive, followed them into the pizza store, threatened to fight them, and started “causing problems,” according to the IA report. The report is heavily redacted under provisions for release of IA reports added to the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act in 2019.
Deputy Lance told investigators that when she arrived she went to speak with Nadeau, but he went inside his tattoo parlor and closed the door.
When she and Mahan, who arrived shortly after, opened the door, Nadeau said he would come out to speak with them, and did so. Mahan then pulled the door open again, causing Nadeau and his brother to insist they not enter.
“This is my personal point of business,” Nadeau told the officers. “You have no legal grounds to pass this threshold.”
Shortly after that, Mahan walked to the Domino’s to interview the alleged victims, body worn camera footage shows.
Meantime, Lance told Nadeau, “I want to hear what happened.”
Nadeau then explained the trash, including scrap metal, was gathered from all over the property, bagged and then emptied into a bin they didn’t realize was to be used only by Domino’s.
After one of the Domino’s employees pointed out a small Domino’s label, Nadeau and his brother removed the trash and moved it into Nadeau’s trash bin. But the Domino’s employee continued to berate him, Nadeau said, so “I lost my shit,” Nadeau admitted to Lance. An argument followed, but he and his brother retreated to his tattoo store.
When Lance asked Nadeau for his ID, he got his car keys and went to his vehicle to retrieve it just as Mahan returned from finding out the Domino’s worker didn’t want to press charges but rather have officers issue a trespass warning.
Mahan then accused Nadeau of taking a “pre-attack” attitude toward the pizza workers. “That’s a good way to get arrested,” Mahan told him. After he asked a bystander for his ID and Nadeau said he didn’t have to provide it, Mahan grabbed Nadeau’s upper arms and a melee ensued, body cam videos show. Two women emerged from the tattoo business, screaming, “Stop, stop,” and trying to protect Nadeau.
Mahan then pulled his Taser and aimed it at the women and Nadeau behind them.
After the scuffle, Nadeau points to his face and says, “He assaulted me. He assaulted me.”
As Lance later handcuffs Nadeau, Mahan says his knee “popped” indicating an injury, which later required surgery, the IA report says.
The IA report notes Nadeau has a “13-page criminal history” in two states — Colorado and Alabama — that includes charges ranging from robbery to harassment to attempted escape. But that wasn’t known by the officers at the time, because they hadn’t obtained his ID prior to the confrontation.
On the drive to jail, Lance’s body-cam footage picks up audio from Nadeau, who disputes the charges and accuses Lance of falsifying a report by saying he assaulted Mahan.
“I have to go with what he’s telling me,” she tells Nadeau.
“He assaulted me,” Nadeau says, “and now you’re backing him up when you didn’t see nothing.”
Nadeau bonded out of jail by the next morning.
Though he was booked into jail on two felonies and two misdemeanors, the charges have been modified to three misdemeanors, including assault on a first responder, obstructing an officer and resisting arrest. District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Howard Black refused to explain why the charges were changed. Nadeau goes to trial on April 21.
His notice of claim letter, a required step prior to filing a lawsuit, notes a subsequent medical exam diagnosed him as suffering a “severe” concussion and emotional damage causing “nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder-like symptomology.” The claim seeks “an amount exceeding $75,000.”
Sheriff’s spokesperson Reed says since 2018 the department has ruled as valid only six incidents of excessive use of force out of 42 complaints. During that time, deputies responded to nearly 750,000 calls for service, she says.
“The Sheriff’s Office takes all of our responsibilities seriously to include Use of Force,” she says, noting deputies are trained annually in use of force and de-escalation procedures.
The Indy paid EPSO $269 for the video and the Internal Affairs report.