Jackson false imprisonment trial delayed

JACKSON — The civil rights lawsuit filed by a Jackson teen against a Colorado cop is delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally scheduled for June, the trial has been pushed to August, per a request from the defendant’s attorney.

“Given current circumstances, as well as the current predictions of officials as to how long the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will last, a sixty-day extension period seems the most reasonable to ensure the most efficient resolution of this litigation,” Vanessa Schultz’s attorney Michael Lowe stated in a motion.

Gerardo Becerra, 19, filed a complaint against Schultz last year for assault, battery and false imprisonment.

In July 2018, Becerra was running from his house to the bus stop when Schultz, an off-duty Colorado cop visiting Jackson on vacation, saw Becerra and “assumed he had committed a crime,” documents state.

She pulled her gun and ordered the teen to the ground and held Becerra at gunpoint until Jackson officers arrived.

“Mr. Becerra, a diminutive 17-year-old Hispanic resident, was late one morning and running to catch his bus after leaving the apartment where he lived with his parents,” attorney Alex Freeburg stated in the original complaint. “Without any more information, and without investigating any further, [Ms. Schultz] exited her vehicle, pulled out a pistol, and ordered Mr. Becerra to stop and get on the ground.”

Witness lists have been filed by both parties. Some Jackson officers, eyewitnesses and Becerra’s mother will testify for the plaintiff.

Some of Schultz’s coworkers and superiors from the Lakewood (Colorado) Police Department will testify on her behalf.

When the incident happened the Jackson police cleared Becerra of any wrongdoing and were vocal about Schultz having overreacted.

“She crossed over a certain line,” Jackson Chief of Police Todd Smith said at the time, explaining that officers don’t have authority to arrest outside their sworn jurisdiction.

An investigation pointed to charging Schultz with felonious restraint and aggravated assault, but Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun, who was assigned as a special prosecutor, decided not to file criminal charges against the vacationing officer “because it is apparent she lacked criminal intent or evil mind.”

Schultz told responding officers that she heard a loud noise and when she saw Becerra running she thought he had committed an “armed robbery.”

The civil complaint states that Becerra has had lasting negative effects from the detainment.

A jury trial is set before Judge Scott W. Skavdahl on Aug. 17 in Casper, Wyoming, and is expected to last four days.