$23,500 Settlement For CO Open Carry Wrongful Arrest

James Sorensen open carried at a Gay Pride event in Colorado Springs in July of 2012, and this video shows him being arrested for doing absolutely nothing illegal. Open carry has been legal in Colorado Springs since 2003, but an entire squad of police somehow missed that memo. They took him to jail, and now he’s taken them to the cleaners . . .

His arrest was so blatantly unlawful that even the Huffington Post ran the story with a “Wrongfully Arrested” headline. The mayor of Colorado Springs responded fairly quickly to the Donnybrook and ordered a review of police procedure and training. It was discovered that the Colorado Springs Police Department had never updated the legal handbooks its officers carry in the field after the 2003 changes to Colorado law.

Their lack of due diligence has cost the taxpayers $23,500, which is the amount of the settlement Sorensen reached with the city’s legal department. I’m sure a chunk of this will go to his attorney, but that should still leave the Iraq war veteran with a nice little pile of fun money.

Full story: 9 News Denver.



  1. I’ll bet that Colorado Springs takes 23,500 years to pay the bill too.

    1. avatar Bob says:

      He still lost big-time. He got arrested which means his mugshot and name will be available on the internet forever because most of the foreign and domestic-based mugshot websites ignore requests to remove their copies of the publicly available arrest records.

      If you are wrongfully arrested and pay the thousands more it takes to get your record expunged or whatever they call it, you will never ever be able to remove the record of your arrest from the internet. It will be available to all potential employers. Expect a much, much lower job interview request rate.

      1. avatar Jacob says:

        Considering he put the video on YouTube without his face censored, I’m going to guess that he’s not too concerned with his face being online. Besides, every time someone searches his name, it will be accompanied by the tagline “wrongfully arrested”. All in all, not the worst case scenario.

        1. avatar Patrick says:

          I Googled “James Sorensen [space]” and there were three suggestions (in order):
          -open carry

  2. avatar Tommy Knocker says:

    Point of clarification pls …. does the receipient of said “court ordered award ” have to pay taxes on that money?

    1. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

      I believe so, but on the amount he gets not the total. . . .

    2. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

      Not if it’s compensation for a loss or pain and suffering, etc. If you get in an traffic accident you don’t have to pay taxes on the settlement unless some of it is designated as wage compensation.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        ^This. Civil rights awards are considered damages for personal injury and are not taxable. Whether his lawyer will get a share is unclear–there is an attorney’s fees provision for successful plaintiffs in section 1983 litigation, but this was a settlement, not a judgment. The settlement agreement would say.

        I am surprised by the confidentiality clause. Public entities cannot enter into confidential settlements, and if they do, as here, the agreement must be produced in response to a public records request.

        The disclaimer of the City’s liability is a standard clause in a compromise and release, and you can’t read too much into it one way or the other.

    3. avatar Jonathan -- Houston says:

      Excellent question! I’m not a lawyer, but I swim with those sharks often enough that this question has actually come up from time to time. Like everything in the law: it depends. In this case, probably everything above attorney fees incurred in recovery will be taxable.

      The law reads that all income is taxable, unless specifically excluded by statute. So it depends on the nature of the award and, for complex cases, how the overall award is allocated among the different types of loss.

      An award for personal injury is tax free. That used to be wide open, but the law changed in 1996 to specify that personal injury or illness must be physical. Therefore, emotional distress, for example, is taxable, except for the amount of the award reimbursing you for medical expenses related to treating your emotional distress. The amount for a broken leg is tax free.

      Punitive damages, the amount above what compensates you for your actual losses and are meant to “send a message” to the offender for behaving so recklessly, are taxable. Awards for back pay, interest, libel/slander/defamation are taxable.

      Wrongful death is tricky, because there are usually multiple components to it. Different states treat it differently and the IRS will defer to those state laws. Anyone involved in a lawsuit should definitely have a qualified accountant do their taxes for those years. Mine is both a CPA and a tax attorney. Costs a pretty penny, but he pays for himself many times over.

  3. avatar Ralph says:

    I’m shocked — shocked! — to find that police officers don’t know the laws that they’re supposed to enforce.

    1. avatar Cliff H says:

      Or in this case STOP enforcing because they have been repealed or superseded.

      It’s as bad as if the Highway Patrol was still writing tickets for doing 55mph on the Freeway when the posted signs say 70.

  4. avatar Shire-man says:

    This should really come out of the cops pay. Instead the taxpayers cover for the officers stupidity, continue to pay the cops salaries and will forever pay the cops pensions.

    Seven cops involved and not one could pull a head from an ass.

    1. avatar mark_anthony_78 says:

      At the very least it should come out of that department’s budget, not a general fund.

      Otherwise no skin off their back… Colorado Springs will just raise the tax rates next year to make up the difference.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        Where do you think the P.D.’s budget comes from? It’s all the same pocket. And all pubic entities plan and/or insure for such contingent liabilities.

        1. avatar mark_anthony_78 says:

          Yes, but why should other departments pay for their mistake.

          Taking it out of the “big bucket” means they don’t give a shit. Telling that Chief he now has $23,500 less to work with next year due specifically to mistakes made by officers on his watch may (but probably not) get him to knock a bit of sense into them.

      2. avatar Sid says:

        You are correct. If the police chief had to cut $23,500 from his budget, I am willing to believe that updates would occur frequently.

    2. But, they went home safe.

      1. avatar Jacob says:

        Anything to make sure that the cops get home safe at night. What does “Police State” mean, anyway?

    3. avatar IdahoPete says:

      Yeah, his lawyer should be filing a federal civil suit against all of the cops involved for violation of his civil rights – hold them individually liable. THAT would send a message.

  5. avatar peirsonb says:

    My favorite part of the story is that at some point an officer informed him that “Ignorance of the law isn’t an excuse.” Then, when defending their actions: “We didn’t know the law had changed.” Absolutely classic….

    1. avatar Hagge says:

      Irony at its finest…

    2. avatar TheBear says:

      I loled.

    3. avatar Jus Bill says:


  6. avatar great unknown says:

    Hey, it’s only nine years without an update to their legal handbooks and training. In NYC, that’s about how often the polizei train at the gun range.

  7. avatar Skyler says:

    What really is needed is the end of immunity for police officers and prosecutors. It should be illegal to unlawfully arrest someone.

    1. avatar mark_anthony_78 says:

      And make it a criminal violation, not a civil one.

      There should be VERY limited exceptions when immediate public safety is in question, but if the “perpetrator” is cooperating (and it’s a victimless “crime”), there’s no reason a few phone/radio calls can’t be made before an arrest to make sure it’s legitimate.

      1. avatar Nigil says:

        This. Could they really not spare the 5 minutes to check in with someone? It’s not like the guy was uncooperative; he probably would have sat and had coffe with them if the cops had asked.

        1. avatar Bob says:

          The very second any detainee raises their voice and dares pull their nose even partially out of a cop’s ass, then the cop will instantly become agitated and will do everything possible to escalate the situation as much as possible. Police SOP.

      2. avatar FormatJunkie says:

        This is more a violation of his 4th amendment rights than his 2nd amendment rights. (yeah, yeah, whiners, his 2a rights were violated too). His biggest mistake was talking to the police at all. The public safety exception has absolutely nothing to do with his detention as there was no exigency whatsoever.

      3. avatar TheBear says:

        What’s funny is that cops all have laptops in their car so all one of these guys had to do is run a Google search.

        1. avatar Jus Bill says:

          What? And interrupt the Pr0n streaming?

      4. avatar Mark N. says:

        Sometimes it is a criminal violation, but it requires intentional and grievous misconduct–like beating the crap out of the arrestee–and it also requires the AG to bring the case. Citizens cannot file or prosecute criminal actions. By way of example, the Fresno cops who beat a schizophrenic man (whose father was a Sheriff’s Deputy) are being criminally prosecuted.

    2. avatar FormatJunkie says:

      There isn’t immunity if they break the law. Sue the crap out of them… Their liability insurance carriers would rather settle 90% of the time than go to court. $24K is pennies on the dollar. He shouldn’t have taken money from the city – I would have sued the crap out of each individual officer.

      1. avatar Jus Bill says:

        That avenue may still be open to him. Depends on the terms of the settlement.

        1. avatar FormatJunkie says:

          Great point – I would hope his lawyer would understand the “finer points” of 4A and not settle for $24k without keeping open individual suits. Acting under the color of the law usually doesn’t offer protection from external suit.

      2. avatar Arthur Tilges says:

        I think that everyone is missing the point. The man was harassed because he was participating in a gay pride parade. The open carry thing was just the excuse to arrest him, but as usual that is just my opinion.

  8. avatar Aragorn says:

    Cops making excuses for their ignorant actions are all too common in the US these days.

    1. avatar Cliff H says:

      And further because they are often not enforcing any actual law, but attempting to bully you into doing what they believe SHOULD be the law.

      In the event of an actual arrest, however, it would seem prudent to have some real violation to charge you with, other than “resisting arrest” or “disrespect to a police officer”.

    2. avatar John Fritz says:

      “… Cops Everyone making excuses for their ignorant actions are is all too common in the US these days …”

      Hope you don’t mind the edit. I’m not sticking up for these particular knuckleheads. Just sayin’.

  9. avatar Alex says:

    John Morse was police chief for this department also awhile back which doesn’t surprise me that his cops acting like that

    1. avatar Troutbum5 says:

      Morse was never chief of the CSPD. He was a cop there, and later was chief of police in Fountain.

      The CSPD has had a less than stellar reputation for some time, unlike the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. This incident just solidifies that reputation even more.

  10. avatar Cannew says:

    The scariest part of that whole video was watching the cops disarm the guy. The odds of a ND went up about 1000% at that point.

    1. avatar BillC says:

      Then all the cops would open up on the man being arrested, and wound/maim/kill everybody in the background, even though the ND was caused by the cop disarming the law-abiding citizen.

    2. avatar Carry.45 says:

      Put me in that situation and I would honestly rather not have my gun on me at all. I like to stick up for cops more often than not but that doesn’t mean I trust them to not get nervous and itchy trigger fingers on these occasions.

  11. avatar SD3 says:

    Money aside, ‘settlement’ is not what we want. It absolves the guilty of their guilt, shields them from punishment, and denies us the precedent we need going forward.

    That 23k will be nothing in 2 years.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:


      See my comment below.

  12. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Now that Colorado Springs is paying for an unlawful arrest, when is a U.S. Attorney going to prosecute those officers for 18 USC § 242 — Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law? A year in prison and a personal fine of several thousand dollars ought to help those officers remember what they are legally supposed to be doing.

    1. avatar FormatJunkie says:

      Finally. Someone else who knows and understands the law.

    2. avatar Jus Bill says:

      BUT they were improperly trained, so that theory goes down the drain.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Does it?

        We hear all the time that “ignorance is no excuse for the law”. Does this not apply to law enforcement officers?

    3. No wrong doing was admitted= no prosecution

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        Not true. Even an admission would not have garnered a prosecution if the officers were merely negligent, which is all that this evidence would support.

    4. avatar Old Ben turning in grave says:

      “…when is a U.S. Attorney going to prosecute those officers for 18 USC § 242 — Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law?”

      Not while Holder is in charge.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        The AG will prosecute–in the right case. This is not one of those cases.

  13. avatar Joe Grine says:

    This seems to be about the “going price” for this type of police misconduct. Unfortunately, its not enough to send a message in the larger jurisdictions.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      You know, this is better than buying lottery tickets. I have half a mind to get two friends with good video cameras (and good skills operating them) to follow me around carrying openly to see if we can find an officer who is foolish enough to arrest me for openly carrying a firearm. And to sweeten the pot, I am inclined to make sure my friends are not obvious. Police tend to be a lot more honest when they know someone is recording them. It would lead to a much more lucrative award if they write up all sorts of false stuff in their arrest report that our clandestine video recordings prove to be false.

      More importantly, why couldn’t the officers just leave the guy alone? He wasn’t hurting anyone.

      1. avatar FormatJunkie says:

        ^THIS. Bring in the parabolic mics!

  14. What an idiot, he exercised his natural right to bear arms. That would have been the headline if RF has wrote the story.

    1. A gay man open carrying a gun in a crowded city park is is meshugah and asking for it.

      1. avatar A-Rod says:

        Yes Pot, tell us all how you and the Kettle feel. What is it like being black? Leo, have you retained Bart Durham? I’ve seen his commecials. He is good. You might could get bigger settlement than $23,500.

    2. avatar Gyufygy says:

      How’s that attention whoring going?

  15. avatar Cold Frog says:

    Ignorant cops are tremendously dangerous. One of the cop threatened him with physical violence

  16. avatar David says:

    This is a defeat not a victory. It proves you can break the law w/ impunity if you have a badge. If that same pistol was stolen out of his house by someone without a badge it would be a crime punishable under the penal code. If he had resisted in any way this man would have experienced physical harm – possibly/likely even death. Criminals do not understand reason or even force . . . but force stops them and that does not change if said criminal(s) wears blue. I am thinking multiple sqaud strength is the only way to open carry in America if you do not want to experience kidnapping.

  17. avatar Tom says:

    HuffPo only covered this because Sorensen is gay.

    1. avatar Chris Dumm says:

      But they covered it! HuffPo is usually a overflowing porta-potty of left-wing sewage, and it was indescribably priceless to see them take a (reasonably) pro-2A position in this story.

  18. Meanwhile, in California my Federal Civil Rights lawsuit seeking to overturn California’s 1967 ban on openly carrying loaded firearms as well as overturning the two recently enacted unloaded open carry bans is fully briefed and awaiting a decision from the district court judge.

    As luck would have it the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently established a framework for evaluating Second Amendment cases. California Attorney General Harris must prove that Open Carry falls outside of the scope of the Second Amendment as it was understood at the time of ratification and she must prove that the bans on open carry do not burden the Second Amendment right. http://CaliforniaRightToCarry.org

    1. avatar Jeff says:

      sounds like you need to contact the editors here and make it a story

      1. Editors here are not interested in real rights, only those that the NRA or SAF say are acceptable.
        The NRA filed an amicus brief against Charles Nichols in federal court.oOo

    2. avatar Mark N. says:

      As usual, you are wrong, Charles. First, there is no decision of the Ninth Circuit as to the burden of proof under intermediate scrutiny, only a trial court decision by a judge in the Eastern District (Fresno) that, although it provides persuasive authority, is not binding on the Central District where your case is pending. Second, there is no time limit as to when a federal trial court may issue its decision on any submitted matter. For example, there is a case pending in the D.C. district court where the summary judgment motion has been pending for nearly four years.

  19. I love it when people sue the government and stick it to taxpayers to teach the big bad government a lesson.

  20. avatar KCK says:

    I would think that carry laws would in this political environement be a constant topic of conversation by LEO’s. If their claim was that their field manual was not up to date, how could they have a dodged a fusillade of knowledge bullits. Maybe they wear ingnorance vests that protect them. The field manual thing was an excuse to let the officers involved be off the personal hook.

  21. avatar John Fritz says:

    Jeez. Well, I wasn’t going to watch that but I did and I’m glad. Seems to me all that bullshit should be worth more than 23k.

    I’ll be those cops were just shitting themselves watching Mr. Sorenson constantly waving his hands and arms all over the place with a holstered semi-auto on his right side.

    Wonder if he’d have gotten himself shot without his video friend being there the whole time.

    Tech-knowledgeable bureaucrats know that these days anyone can be broadcasting in addition to recording, so grabbing someone’s smartphone from them won’t necessarily get rid of evidence of bad behavior.

  22. avatar Bob says:

    A cop’s first priority is to make an arrest. If there is any doubt whatsoever, arrest. Do not make any attempt to avoid any unlawful arrest, you do not need to be concerned about being disciplined for making a false arrest. You will be at great risk of being disciplined for not arresting someone you could have arrested.

  23. avatar Anonymous says:

    This will continue to happen until police officers are held liable.

  24. avatar Andy says:

    Colorado Springs PD has a budget of $100,000,000+ (available on the city’s website) a year. He hardly took them to the cleaners. CSPD spends more on dog food for the K9 unit. Plus, the insurance company paid out. While, it’s a win it’s a really small win that does not move the needle one bit.

    1. avatar Citizen says:

      Except that this guy made, what, $10,000 after all fees, and it is showing up even on HP that the gun rights movement is more than just OFWGs.

      To James Sorenson and his partner: sorry you got hassled, but thanks for what you were doing there.

      1. avatar Andy says:

        This is just like the guy in Philly who quickly settled his OC case. In the end, nothing changes. To people who live pay check to pay check, $25k is like winning powerball. It’s chump change. The PD admits no fault nor will it make specific changes to its policies. So, tell me how this is a victory? One guy was paid to shut up and go away while CSPD gets no repercussions from the courts.

  25. avatar neiowa says:

    “nice little pile of fun money” ?? $23500 isn’t diddly missing at least one zero. The “guy” have Gilligan for a lawyer?

    1. avatar txJM says:

      For going downtown for a night? I’d take a quarter of that.

  26. avatar Mediocrates says:

    It’s a pittance. Ten times that would have been more appropriate.

  27. avatar GruntDoc says:

    “You’re about to get the shit kicked out of you.” I’ve sure the city attorney loved hearing that played in court.

  28. avatar Glenn in USA says:

    He should take the money only if he can now sue City and the Officers them in Federal Court for CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS for example of his 4th Amendment Illegal Searches and Seizures, Lack of Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause. Then sue the Officers and force a written apology. Make them get on their knees. Make them pay. Make them bleed.

  29. avatar cheapshooter says:

    Sue every individual officer and then put their names and faces everywhere for everyone to see. I’ve spoken to/been arrested by 3 officers that actually treated me with respect, I returned the favor. But 85%-90% are assholes. I’ve had a gun pointed at my head and told to get out of my vehicle and on the ground from doing 63mph in a 55. On the other hand I went to a friends place to ride down some old trails and no one told me his property connected to another persons land. I got lost and the owner found me. I got arrested for trespassing but the officer was polite and calmed down the land owner who would not shut up until I was arrested. I was out in 30 minutes. And the officer apologized at least twice. I won’t go into other examples.

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