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Federal Judge Denies Ex-Cop’s Dismissal Request In Racism Lawsuit

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A federal judge has denied the request of a former Albany County sheriff’s deputy that the racial discrimination lawsuit filed against him be dismissed.

Judge Scott Skavdahl rejected Christian Handley motion for dismissal of the lawsuit filed against him by by Jamin Johnson, a former Albany County deputy who is Black, disagreeing with Handley’s arguments that the time limit for filing a complaint against him had passed, so the lawsuit should be dismissed.

However, after Handley filed his request, Johnson filed an amended complaint over Handley’s alleged discriminatory actions, expanding on certain details and stating that Handley was not punished for his racist practices due to a “good ole’ boy” network.

“It was widespread knowledge among ACSO employees that Mr. Handley was part of ACSO’s ‘good ole’ boy’ network and enjoyed the patronage of, and a special relationship with, the sheriff,” Johnson’s amended lawsuit complaint reads. “A ‘good ole’ boy’ network refers to an informal system where white men of a similar background use their influence for their mutual benefit (and often to the detriment of those who are not part of the ‘good ole’ boy’ network).”

The amended complaint contained allegations of actions that occurred within the time limit to file complaints, so the judge did not dismiss the lawsuit against Handley. Skavdahl also noted that Handley had not yet responded to the amended complaint.

However, Handley has filed a new motion to dismiss part of Johnson’s lawsuit — specifically the sections about Johnson’s claims of a hostile work environment, again citing the statute of limitations.

The original lawsuit against Handley was filed in January. It alleged that during the 10-year period Johnson worked at the sheriff’s department, from 2007 to 2017, his supervisor Handley “relentlessly” demeaned him with racial slurs and innuendos, even once in front of Johnson’s wife and children.

The lawsuit alleges that at the end of 2016, Handley was promoted to patrol sergeant and “immediately orchestrated a sham disciplinary process” to force Johnson out of the department due to his race.

Johnson’s lawsuit also said Handley fabricated numerous disciplinary actions against Johnson in rapid succession and then persuaded the department to give Johnson an ultimatum: Johnson could demote himself to a position still under Handley or leave the department.

On Aug. 2, 2017, Johnson resigned.

Johnson’s lawsuit said in 2021, the department conducted an internal investigation, which substantiated Johnson’s claims of racism. It also alleged that the investigation showed Handley had received unfair preferential treatment throughout his employment at the department, which emboldened his misconduct.

According to the lawsuit, Handley routinely referred to Johnson, the only Black officer in the department, with slurs such as “jigaboo” and the n-word. It alleged Handley once also asked if Johnson had sex with a Black woman and when Johnson said nothing, Handley said “That would be nasty. That would be like having sex with a dog.”

Johnson is asking for damages due to his lost income and benefits from having to resign, lost employment opportunities, psychological and emotional anguish, distress, pain and suffering and attorneys’ fees.

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Laramie Commissioners, Former Sheriff, Deputy Deny Claim Of Deleting Video Of Man’s Killing

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Albany County’s former sheriff, a former deputy and the county’s board of commissioners are asking a federal court to reject a woman’s argument that a video of the deputy shooting her son in 2018 was altered to remove evidence.

In three separate motions filed this week in U.S. District Court, the Albany County Board of Commissioners, former deputy Derek Colling and former sheriff David O’Malley asked that the court deny a motion for summary judgment in favor of Debra Hinkel, the mother of Robbie Ramirez.

Hinkel, in her request for a summary judgment filed in March, alleged that video from the incident had been altered, so she is entitled to a summary judgment in her wrongful death lawsuit against the three.

But all Colling and the commissioners denied the video had been changed.

“[Hinkel] has employed a discovery tactic of ‘catch me if you can,’ as it relates to a conspiracy theory, unsupported by evidence, that has been perpetuated by [Hinkel] that Colling engaged in serious misconduct in the events that led to the justifiable shooting of Robbie Ramirez,” documents filed on behalf of Colling said.

“Simply put, [Hinkel] is attempting to muddy the waters enough to overcome Colling’s meritorious qualified immunity argument,” the documents said.

Colling, who was a corporal with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, shot and killed Ramirez, 39, during an altercation that occurred after a traffic stop in November 2018. He was cleared of wrongdoing in the incident by a grand jury.

In the filing by county commissioners, attorneys the attorneys called Hinkel’s claims “physically and technologically impossible” and “outrageous.”

“The body camera video cannot be edited or deleted with the use of the viewer,” the board’s court documents said. “Deputy Colling did not have the capability, knowledge or intent to modify the dash camera video footage or the body camera footage at the scene.”

In her request for a summary judgment, Hinkel alleges that the defendants deleted five “crucial” seconds of video footage from Colling’s body camera and deleted audio from his dash camera footage, thereby “severely” hindering Hinkel’s ability to show that the shooting was not justified.

She also claims that the county commissioners presented the altered copies of both videos to the public, and said she assumes this is the same evidence presented to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation and the grand jury that cleared Colling.

O’Malley’s attorneys argued there was no evidence showing that he was complicit in any alleged altering of the videos.

“[Hinkel] cannot show that Sheriff O’Malley is responsible in any way for any supposed manipulation of the body worn camera, even assuming it happened, or that he had an intent to deprive [Hinkel] of any information,” the documents filed on behalf of O’Malley said.

Hinkel additionally alleged that the Albany County Sheriff’s Office removed the audio from Colling’s dash cam footage.

Colling shot and killed a 15-year-old boy in 2009 while working as a police officer in Las Vegas, a shooting that led to a lengthy lawsuit. He was fired from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in 2011 for an alleged assault of a videographer trying to film police work, according to WyoFile.

Colling resigned from the sheriff’s office in June 2021.

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Former Albany County Sheriff’s Deputy Sues For Racial Discrimination

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A former Albany County sheriff’s deputy is suing a sergeant in the department for racial discrimination, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

According to court documents, Jamin Johnson worked for the department for 10 years, from 2007 to 2017. During that time, he alleges that Sgt. Christian Handley, his supervisor, “relentlessly” demeaned Johnson with racial slurs and innuendos, even once in front of Johnson’s wife and children.

“The total of Mr. Handley’s racism, bigotry and discrimination almost defies belief,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit alleges that at the end of 2016, Handley was promoted to patrol sergeant and “immediately orchestrated as sham disciplinary process” to force Johnson out of the department due to his race.

Handley fabricated numerous disciplinary actions against Johnson in rapid succession, the lawsuit said. He then persuaded the department to give Johnson an ultimatum: Johnson could demote himself to a position still under Handley or leave the department.

On Aug. 2, 2017, Johnson resigned.

“It was abundantly clear that continuing to work for Mr. Handley would have meant enduring more racism, more bigotry, and more discrimination, none of which was tolerable,” the lawsuit said.

In 2021, the department conducted an internal investigation, which substantiated Johnson’s claims of racism, the lawsuit said. It also alleged that the investigation showed Handley had received unfair preferential treatment throughout his employment at the department, which emboldened his misconduct.

According to court documents, Handley routinely referred to Johnson, the only Black officer in the department, as slurs such as “jigaboo” and the n-word. He once also questioned if Johnson had sex with a Black woman and when he said nothing, Handley said “That would be nasty. That would be like having sex with a dog.”

Johnson is asking for damages due to his lost income and benefits from having to resign, lost employment opportunities, psychological and emotional anguish, distress, pain and suffering and attorneys’ fees.

An earlier lawsuit, filed in 2020, alleged Handley and another officer pressured sexual assault victims to recant their allegations. Handley and the other officer were removed as defendants in the lawsuit when a judge ruled they could not be held personally liable in the case. However, the judge also said the officers handled the case poorly.

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Laramie Cop Who Shot, Killed Man In 2018 Resigns From Sheriff’s Office

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A sheriff’s officer in Laramie who shot and killed a Laramie resident in 2018 has resigned from the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, effective Wednesday.

Albany County Sheriff Aaron Applehans confirmed the resignation of Officer Derek Colling in comments to Cowboy State Daily, but couldn’t provide information as to the reason because state law prohibits him from discussing personnel issues.

Applehans was unsure of whether Colling planned to seek work elsewhere as a law enforcement officer.

Colling, a corporal with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, shot and killed Robbie Ramirez during an altercation that occurred after a traffic stop in November 2018. He was cleared of wrongdoing in the incident by a grand jury.

Colling shot and killed a 15-year-old boy in 2009 while working as a police officer in Las Vegas, a shooting that led to a lengthy lawsuit. He was fired from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in 2011 for an alleged assault of a videographer trying to film police work, according to WyoFile.

Ramirez’s mother Debra Hinkel has filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office following the death of her son, calling it a wrongful death and referring to the grand jury’s decision in Robbie Ramirez’ shooting as a a miscarriage of justice.

Her lawyers have alleged that former Albany County Sheriff Dave O’Malley hired Colling when other law enforcement agencies wouldn’t. Colling is a Laramie native and his father is a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper.

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