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Former Colo. officer sues sheriff’s office over injuries from ‘reckless’ pursuit

Officer Steven Wren, who was 37 at the time, suffered a multi-level compression fracture of his thoracic spine

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By Zachary Dupont
The Gazette

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that a former Colorado Springs police officer sustained injuries that forced him to retire as a result of a “reckless” car chase by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

The lawsuit, filed by the Antero Law offices in the U.S. District Court of Colorado on Oct. 15, 2022, is seeking relief for damages incurred by former officer Steven Wren in the 2019 accident.

“We are seeking justice for Mr. Wren and to hold (the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office) accountable for failing to follow its own policies and procedures governing vehicle pursuits,” Antero attorney Zachary Mugge wrote in a statement to The Gazette. “The pursuit put the lives and safety of the community in danger, and it was not a question of if, but when, someone would be hurt. “

The incident began on Oct. 18, 2019, when the Sheriff’s Office witnessed Kaleb Miles driving a stolen truck in the Falcon area.

Miles’ and his girlfriend Brooke Macklin’s interaction with law enforcement began when the couple drove by a sheriff’s deputy’s vehicle, and the deputy began to pursue. However, the lawsuit alleges the deputy “called off the pursuit out of concerns over creating an unreasonable risk of danger to those involved and to innocent bystanders,” due to the dangerous speed at which Miles was driving.

Later the same day, the Sheriff’s Office was notified of Miles and Macklin being seen stealing gasoline at a Safeway in Falcon, according to the lawsuit, and responded by sending deputies in pursuit.

The second pursuit of Miles would result in deputies chasing Miles as he drove upward of 70 mph, even reaching speeds of 100 mph at times, according to the lawsuit, and driving into oncoming traffic.

The lawsuit claims that CSPD was asked to join the pursuit, but that CSPD determined the pursuit was too dangerous and declined.

The lawsuit goes on to claim that several sheriff’s deputies also deemed the pursuit too dangerous and backed off, while other deputies did not. The lawsuit claims that the Sheriff’s Office violated its own policies in continuing the pursuit.

"(The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office)'s vehicle pursuit policies and procedures required the Lieutenant and Deputies to properly weigh the risks of danger and harm to the public,” Mugge said via statement. “Instead of doing so, (the Sheriff’s Office)'s chase reached speeds of 100 mph, blew through red lights and stop signs, drove into oncoming lanes of traffic, and cut through medians and over curbs.

“Traffic conditions that Friday afternoon were heavy, and countless civilians had to swerve off the road and slam on their brakes to avoid collisions.”

[LISTEN: Policing Matters Podcast: Cops speak out on no-pursuit policies]

The second pursuit of Miles lasted nearly an hour and resulted in three multicar collisions, one in the county and two in Colorado Springs, with the third multicar collision occurring when Miles captured and arrested by sheriff’s deputies.

The lawsuit alleges that on the afternoon of Oct. 18, Wren was sitting at a red light at the intersection of North Academy Boulevard and Austin Bluffs Parkway when the stolen truck “came barreling down Austin Bluffs Parkway traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes and blew through a red light at a high rate of speed into cross-traffic traveling with the green signal, all while two (sheriff’s) vehicles driven by Deputy Scott Brettell and Nicholas Witherite, respectively, continued in pursuit.”

Miles’ truck hit a vehicle driving through the intersection before crashing into the driver’s-side door of Wren, who was still sitting at the red light, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says the collision resulted in Wren suffering a multilevel compression fracture of his thoracic spine, as well as injuries to his left shoulder, arm and hand.

“The Fire and Police Pension Association determined that Mr. Wren suffered a Permanent Occupational Disability, and Mr. Wren, who was 37 years old at the time of the collision, was medically retired from the Colorado Springs Police Department,” the lawsuit says.

CSPD spokesperson Lt. Pamela Castro confirmed a Steven Wren was a former officer with the department, but retired in 2021. Castro said it’s against CSPD policy to disclose why Wren retired or if medical status played a part.

The lawsuit alleges that Wren has not been able to “return to meaningful work,” due to the injuries suffered in the collision, Mugge said.

Previous reporting from The Gazette says that on Oct. 15, 2019, Miles approached a couple at a Walmart, attempted to steal their car, and a shotgun into the bumper of the car when the couple refused to give them the keys.

Previous reporting also confirms Miles was part of a car chase with the Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 18, 2019, and that he plowed his pickup truck “through at least a dozen cars as he fled sheriff’s deputies.”

Inmate records show Miles is currently in the Crowley County Correctional Facility on a 28-year prison sentence split between three different 2019 cases in El Paso County, including convictions in to the theft and law enforcement pursuit on Oct. 18.

Wren and his attorneys have made a jury demand over the claims listed in the lawsuit, which names the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, El Paso County, former Sheriff Bill Elder and four sheriff’s deputies as defendants.

Sheriff’s spokesperson Lt. Deb Mynatt told The Gazette: “Per Sheriff’s Office policy, we do not provide comment to pending litigation.”

In the scheduling order for the case filed in February, it’s stated that it’s the position of the defendants that all injuries sustained by Wren were at the direct fault of Miles, and not the Sheriff’s Office or its deputies.

The document also states its the position of the defendants that “the injuries [suffered] by Plaintiff following the collision with the Miles vehicle, if any occurred, preexisted that October 18, 2019, collision,” and “defendants dispute the nature and extent of the Plaintiff’s damages as well as the causation of any claimed damages and/or injuries.”

The lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office remains open, with discovery from both parties due on Aug. 31.

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