Springs Police Launch St. Paddy’s Parade Investigation

Colorado Springs police have launched an internal investigation into the arrests of seven men and women during last Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in which officers were captured on camera and videotape dragging 65-year old Elizabeth Fineron across the street, resulting in a nasty road rash on her upper thigh and stomach.

The images also show police holding retired Catholic priest Frank Cordaro in a pressure point control that is designed to force compliance through pain, as well as detainees lying face down on the street in handcuffs as parade-watchers look on.

The seven who were arrested were marching in the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade wearing green T-shirts with white peace symbols on them. (click here for additional photographs and to read the original story).

Sgt. Mark Stevens of the Colorado Springs Police Department said no citizen has formally requested an inquiry, but the department decided to investigate after numerous inquiries from the media. Police Chief Richard Myers is out of town, and Stevens said, “We’re anticipating he will come in and ask questions, so predominantly we’re trying to find out what happened; was it legitimate or not legitimate?”

“There’s some press on to get done as soon as can,” Stevens said. The investigation is expected to take two to three weeks.

Police Lt. Rafael Cintron said in all, 14 officers were involved in the incident, all of whom remain on duty. A total of 35 officers were assigned to direct traffic and oversee security during the parade in downtown Colorado Springs.

“We’re asking anyone who was down who witnessed to please give us a call,” Cintron said. “We want to do a complete investigation.”

The phone number for the CSPD is 719-444-7000.

Colorado Springs resident Mark Lewis took 100 photographs during the arrests, including the images that appear here. Cintron called the photographs “a snapshot of that situation,” noting that interviews still need to be conducted with witnesses.

While the images are disturbing, Cintron said two citizens have called police headquarters expressing support for the police actions. “They said the officers showed great restraint in handling the protesters,” Cintron said.

However, members of the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission maintain that they were not at the parade to protest, but to peaceably march wearing their green T-shirts, carrying a banner reading “Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission” and holding signs with messages like “Kids Not Bombs.” Eric Verlo, the chairman of the PPJPC, had obtained a $15 permit for the group to march.

Shortly after the event began, a parade organizer allegedly called in police to remove the group. At that point, many of them sat down in the street, were subsequently arrested for refusing to disperse, and have alleged brutality at the hands of the police. Read the PPJPC’s statement here.

Police reportedly yanked Verlo and Fineron out of a bookmobile that Verlo had been driving, took possession of the vehicle and drove it out of the parade.

“No one was planning to do any civil disobedience; it was a beautiful day up until that,” said Bill Durland, 75, one of the seven arrested.

Photos by Mark Lewis; reprinted with permission. From top: Parade participant Elizabeth Fineron, 65, was transported to the hospital after police dragged her across the street, during which her pants were partially pulled off.

An unidentified Colorado Springs police officer restrains retired priest Frank Cordaro using what CSPD Sgt. Mark Stevens calls a pressure point control hold. The hold is designed to get someone to comply with a request from police with the use of pain.

PPJPC Chairman Eric Verlo, who had a permit to participate in the parade, is shown at the bottom left in handcuffs.

Correction: In a previous post, a police officer’s motorcycle helmet was incorrectly identified as riot gear.

Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential, and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at cdegette@coloradoconfidential.com.

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