Two Glendale police officers who fatally shot an unarmed man in a stolen truck on Colorado Boulevard in late 2020 have settled a lawsuit by his family for an undisclosed sum.
The case arising from the death of John Pacheaco Jr., 36, had been set to begin trial Monday and was one of the first cases to make use of a police accountability law passed by Colorado lawmakers in June 2020. That law allows people who allege civil rights violations to sue police officers in their individual capacities in Colorado court, removing qualified immunity as a defense.
In recent weeks, attorneys for both sides notified the court of the settlement and consented to the case’s dismissal, which Denver District Court Judge Shelley I. Gilman granted Aug. 22. The officers who shot Pacheaco were Neal McCormick and Chandler Phillips.
Because the Glendale Police Department wasn’t a party to the case or the settlement, the document isn’t subject to public-records disclosure laws. Reached Monday, attorney Matthew Haltzman — who is representing Pacheaco’s family, including his mother, Jamie Fowler of Utah — declined to provide more details but confirmed the terms are confidential.
“The case did reach a settlement, and that’s about all I can say,” Haltzman said.
An attempt to reach the attorneys for McCormick and Phillips was not immediately successful Monday.
On Oct. 31, 2020, Pacheaco fell asleep in a truck he was driving while it was stopped on South Colorado Boulevard near East Alameda Avenue, the engine still running.
A Glendale officer, Bradley Reed, arrived to check on him and parked behind the truck, according to court filings and an investigation by the Denver District Attorney’s Office. Reed reported to dispatchers that the man was unresponsive and learned that the truck was reported stolen.
Soon after, McCormick and Phillips arrived, parking their police vehicle in front of the truck. They shined their flashlights through the window and shouted commands at Pacheaco, who awoke, taking his foot off the brake — causing the truck to lurch forward into Phillips’ car.
Pacheaco then put the truck in reverse, and as the vehicle moved backward, McCormick and Phillips fired a combined 19 shots. The vehicle accelerated and struck Reed’s car.
Pacheaco was struck by bullets on the left side of his face, in the head and the neck. One shot tore his spinal cord.
In the court case, the plaintiffs’ attorneys contended that Pacheaco was disoriented when he woke to the officers outside and that he lost control of the vehicle once he was shot. The defense attorneys argued the two officers were reacting to Pacheaco fleeing and feared for their safety. The third officer, Reed, didn’t fire.
Surveillance video and a video taken by a bystander captured the shooting.
Later, a toxicology report said methamphetamine was in Pacheaco’s blood. In the civil case, the plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that “there is no way to tell” if he was still under the influence of the drug at the time of the shooting.
District Attorney Beth McCann declined to seek criminal charges against McCormick and Phillips, finding the shooting was legally justified. McCann said in May 2021 that McCormick perceived himself to be in danger of being hit by the truck, and the officers acted in a way that “minimized the likelihood of injury to others.”
Fowler and Pacheaco’s estate filed suit against the two officers in September 2021.
Late last month, the judge in the case ruled against the officers’ motion for summary judgment based on the argument that their use of deadly force was objectively reasonable. That ruling cleared the case for trial, and the settlement was reached in less than three weeks.
It’s likely that McCormick’s and Phillips’ liability is covered in part or entirely by the Glendale Police Department’s insurance policy.
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