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Boulder County sergeant arrested after reportedly using stun gun on restrained Black inmate

BOULDER, CO – June 9: The Boulder County Jail on Tuesday, June 9, 2020 in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER, CO – June 9: The Boulder County Jail on Tuesday, June 9, 2020 in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)
Christopher Mecca (Boulder County Sheriff’s Office/Courtesy photo)

A sergeant with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office has been arrested and has resigned after reportedly using a stun gun on an restrained Black inmate at the Boulder County Jail last month.

Sgt. Christopher Mecca, 51, has been arrested on suspicion of third-degree assault and first-degree official misconduct, both misdemeanors.

The assault count carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail, while the misconduct charge could carry a year in jail. Both charges would require Mecca’s peace officer certification to be permanently revoked if he were convicted.

According to a press release, a 32-year-old Black man was brought to the jail Sept. 23 on a domestic violence case and was reported to have been combative with officers and intoxicated. When he arrived at the jail he “purposely went limp buckling at the knees as a means of being passively resistant.”

Mecca, one of the on-duty supervisors, instructed deputies to secure the man in a restraint chair. As deputies were placing him in the restraint chair and securing the straps, the man was reportedly verbally uncooperative, began spitting at staff, and attempted to bite at least one deputy, but deputies were able to maintain control of his movements and keep him from spitting by utilizing a spit sock.

While the inmate was restrained, Mecca used a stun gun on the leg of the inmate for five seconds.

Mecca self-reported the incident, and was placed on administrative leave. He resigned Friday in lieu of termination, according to a release.

Mecca was hired by the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office in 2007 and had no prior allegations of excessive force.

“I am deeply troubled about the unnecessary force used, as it is contrary to the mission, vision, and values of what the sheriff’s office stands for,” Sheriff Joe Pelle said in a statement. “While former sergeant Mecca’s underlying motivation isn’t known, the unnecessary application of force on a person of color is especially concerning.”

The incident was caught on body camera and reported by the sheriff’s office to the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office, which opened an investigation and ultimately determined charges were warranted.

“No one is above the law,” Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said in a statement. “I appreciate Sheriff Pelle taking immediate action in response to this incident. When a law enforcement officer is suspected of a crime, there should be an immediate response, a thorough investigation, and a timely decision based on the facts and evidence. That’s what happened here. As in every case, the mission of the District Attorney’s Office is to seek justice, without fear or favor. That is exactly what we will do in this case.”

The District Attorney’s Office said while the stun gun caused the inmate pain, the injuries suffered were not serious enough to warrant felony assault charges.

As for the misconduct charge, Boulder County Sheriff’s Office policy states stun guns are not to be used on inmates who are “restrained and immobilized, in whole or part, in a restraint chair.”

Under the recently passed Senate Bill 217, other law enforcement personnel who failed to prevent the alleged incident could also have faced charges, but investigators determined that no law enforcement personnel knew what Mecca was about to do, and that the incident lasted only a few seconds.

Mecca was released on a $1,000 personal recognizance bond.