Statement Regarding Thomas Villanueva
We aim to hold involved government agencies accountable and advocate for the release of all of the officers. The government agencies involved are responsible for Thomas Villanueva through their policies and protocols, not the individuals who serve and protect. Correcting protocols will ultimately better protect the community and the brave individuals in blue who serve it.
Stand for the injured and fallen officers. Stand for Thomas Villanueva. Stand for a safer Colorado.
“As many of you know, today – February 5th, 2019 – marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Officer Micah Flick and the paralysis of our client, Thomas Villanueva. This is a very sad day for many, and a day in which we have the ability to have compassion for a fallen officer and his family; compassion for the wounded officers; and also, compassion for a man who is paralyzed from the chest down for the rest of his life.
These individuals all suffered their injuries in the same event when officers of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office; the Colorado Springs Police Department; and the Colorado State Patrol attempted the takedown of a car thief. Known as the “BATTLE” team – these officers from three different governmental agencies – do not work together on a regular basis and are not trained together; yet, they were directed to execute this tragic event.
• (“BATTLE” stands for “Beat Auto Theft Through Law Enforcement”)
There have been a lot of mistruths and unfair statements circulating about the events of February 5, 2018 – in part fueled by the fact that no information was released to any parties as to the investigation results until August 21, 2018 – more than 6 ½ months after the event. Victims, their families, and the public sat by waiting for months and months for answers … 6 ½ months of governmental silence.
This is important because the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act, often referred to as the “GIA Statute”, allows a very short period of time to bring a claim in a case where a government mistake may be the cause of a person’s injuries. In many cases, the GIA Statue allows only 6 months, or 180 days, to bring notice of a claim. In this case, it took the various governmental agencies over 6 months to release their version of an event that happened in less than a minute and involved 10 or 12 people. This delay forced our law firm to bring a claim on behalf of Thomas Villanueva in order to preserve his rights while we waited to better understand what happened on that day.
Worse yet, the results of the investigation have now left more questions than answers. Again, they have left a trail of mistruths and I would like to clarify some of those today.
First, Thomas Villanueva DID NOT WALK INTO THE MIDDLE OF A CRIME SCENE OR A GUN FIGHT. Thomas was not “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” This was not just “bad luck.”
The truth is that Thomas Villanueva was walking home on his lunch break, just like many people probably do on any given day in Colorado. It was the middle of the day and he was in front of his home and it was his lunch break. Unbeknownst to Thomas, he was in the middle of a bunch of undercover police officers, many dressed in hoodies and wearing sunglasses, and all completely unidentified. Thomas walked on the road leading into his apartment complex for quite some time and distance following this undercover gang of police officers – all the time not knowing they were about to do what is called a “takedown” of a suspect. In Thomas’ mind, he was following a group of guys who may have lived there. They looked at Thomas several times and never said a word. The police investigation shows that the officers saw Thomas. He was in the officer’s operational perimeter for a substantial amount of time and was allowed to stay there as they went forward in their operation.
Thomas had no idea that a deadly situation was evolving, and he had been kept in the zone of danger all along. Before he knew it, Thomas was laying on the ground paralyzed.
The second mistruth is that Thomas Villanueva IS AFTER THE POLICE OFFICERS WHO WERE PART OF THIS EVENT. This is not true. Thomas only wants the governmental agencies responsible for his paralysis to stand up and treat him as they would any officer who was paralyzed. This mistruth, that Thomas is after the individual police officers, has been assumed because our law firm filed a Complaint that named the officers as well as the governmental police agencies. The Complaint was filed that way because under Colorado law, it had to be. Otherwise, Thomas may have lost all ability to any assistance because he failed to name all parties involved. This forced Thomas to name everyone while additional facts are being sorted out. Thomas has asked the government to accept all responsibility so that the individual officers involved may be immediately released.
The third misconception is that Thomas IS JUST AFTER THE MONEY. He has already started to receive hate-mail suggesting this and this accusation couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is that Thomas has only asked the governmental agencies involved to treat him fairly … to provide him with the same benefits they would provide one of the officers involved. But as an innocent citizen, they have told Thomas “NO” … they refused … they have offered Thomas nothing. Governments should take care of their citizens when they cause them devastating injuries.
Please remember that Thomas is a 29-year-old man who will never walk again … Who must use a catheter to urinate … Who must have assistance and a lift – like you would use for a car engine – to get into and out of his bed … Who went from living independently to living with his parents … Who must now find the means to alter his parent’s home – the door entries, the bathrooms, the showers – just so that he may bathe and simply get in and out of his home.
All this for a young man who was simply on a lunch break 1) in front of his home, 2) in broad daylight, 3) and surrounded by the very police officers who are charged with keeping our citizens safe. Yet, Thomas ends up paralyzed. His life forever changed. How does that happen?
I cannot imagine any Colorado family who, if put in a similar position, would not have some serious questions as to how this occurred … and who would not demand answers as to how they were placed in a zone of danger by a system that is meant to protect them.
With that, I am happy to take a few questions.”
STATUS UPDATE 2/20/20
As many of you following Thomas’ case and recovery know, Ramos Law stood up for Thomas when the government entities involved refused to offer him any help – not even the health or disability benefits that a fallen officer in a similar situation would receive.
Ramos Law was forced to file a lawsuit to get Thomas assistance, and the attorneys for the police departments responded by filing a Motion to Dismiss. Essentially, this is a Motion that says Thomas has no rights to sue them; essentially, ‘no case.’ Among other reasons, the government entity attorneys claim that the Colorado Governmental Immunity statutes prevent government entities from being sued in an instance like this.
Ramos Law responded to the Motion to Dismiss on July 31, 2019, and this case has been pending with the Court ever since. The Court will decide whether the government attorneys are correct, and the case should be dismissed, or whether Thomas is correct and has the right to move forward with his case and search for help.
The Court’s interpretation of the laws and facts surrounding this event will guide the decision. Both Thomas and the local government officials associated with this event will ultimately have the right to appeal.
Thank you once again for caring about Thomas and his status. Ramos Law appreciates your support.