A father who was tasered and arrested by a Colorado Springs police officer inside a hospital has filed a lawsuit claiming excessive force.
The man’s crime? Refusing to hand over a cell phone to police without a warrant.
The incident occurred on April 17 after C.J. Andersen and his wife rushed their 19-month-old daughter to the hospital because the toddler had walked behind the car as the mother was pulling out of the driveway, according to the lawsuit filed last month.
The distraught couple were standing by their daughter in a hospital bed when Teller County Sheriff’s detective Anthony Matarazzo entered the room and demanded the mother’s cell phone.
According to Westworld:
“While we were doing our final check-in about the insurance information, this man [Matarazzo] walks into the room and starts demanding that we hand over my wife’s cell phone. He wouldn’t tell us who he was, and he got right in my wife’s face.”
“ I was about to throw him out of the room because he was being so disrespectful, when my father, who was there, too, asked, ‘Are you conducting an investigation?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I am.’
According to the lawsuit filed last month:
Detective Anthony Matarazzo, of the Teller County Sheriff’s Office (“TCSO”) and other law enforcement officers, wrongfully suspected possible child abuse as the cause of injuries. This suspicion was groundless and would later be proven to be unfounded. While the Andersen’s were focused on treatment, Sergeant Matarazzo and other law enforcement officers were plotting their investigation. Officers began walking in and out of the Andersen’s hospital room, asking questions and demanding Mr. Andersen give law enforcement his pregnant fiancée’s cell phone while she laid next to their young daughter’s hospital bed – her daughter’s life in the balance.Mr. Andersen refused and rightfully told the officers they were not entitled to seize the phone.
Body Camera video obtained by the couple’s attorney depicts officers attempting to pull Andersen’s wife’s cell phone out of his pocket and when Anderson’s states “ Excuse me! You do not grab anything out of my pockets!”, Colorado Springs Officer Vito Delcore responds “You’re going to hit the ground real hard.”
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the public from unreasonable government searches and seizures, and this protection extends to cell phones.
Except under exigent circumstances, if the officers had believed there was evidence on either of the couple’s cell phones, legally they were required to obtain a search warrant. But as Body Camera video from two angles clearly shows, officers chose to escalate the situation by grabbing Anderson and tasering him twice in front of his daughter, wife, and father.
“When Andersen refused to give the officers the phone, they grabbed him by his wrists, threw him on the ground and used a Taser on him twice,” the complaint states.
Anderson was subsequently arrested on “suspicion of resisting arrest and obstruction”.
These charges would ultimately be dropped in December of 2019 and no charges of child abuse were ever made against Andersen or his wife.
The civil case against Colorado Springs Police officers Vito DelCore, Todd Eckert and Carlos Sandoval and Teller County Sheriff’s Office Detective Anthony Matarazzo was filed July 13, 2020.
While over a year has passed, the incident has traumatized C.J. and his wife and shaped their views on police.
“My wife and I are both from families that were very pro-law enforcement,” he says. “This has really changed our perspective about how police treat people and what they should be allowed to do. And they shouldn’t be able to treat people like that.” WestWord
Andersen’s attorney David Lane spoke to FoxNews31 regarding the case. “He wants accountability from the officers, he wants an apology from Colorado Springs, he wants discipline for the officers, he wants training for the rest of the Colorado Springs Police Department and if a jury decides that he should get some money that’s fine too,”
Police from Colorado Springs and Teller County Sheriff’s Office have not commented on the case.