Heartbreaking Footage Shows Kevin Dizmang’s Death in Hands of Mental Health Team

The death of 63-year-old Kevin Dizmang, who died in November while being restrained by members of a Colorado mental health crisis response unit, has been ruled a homicide by the county coroner’s office.

“The contribution of physical restraint to the cause of death results in the determination of a manner of [death as] homicide,” reads the El Paso County Coroner report signed by five doctors and obtained by The Daily Beast.

The report also listed a number of medical conditions Dizmang suffered—including heart issues, pulmonary disease, and asthma—as well as methamphetamine intoxication.

Newly released body-camera footage also shows the horrific moment when the man was tackled and restrained face-down by two members of the Community Response Team—a collaboration between the Colorado Springs Police Department, health clinicians, and the Colorado Springs Fire Department that’s meant to provide services for those experiencing mental health crises.

Harry Daniels, a civil rights attorney and lawyer for Dizman’s daughter, Kenda James, compared the death to George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.

“This was not a social crisis intervention, this was the boys in blue showing up doing what the boys in blue do,” Daniels told The Daily Beast.

The CSFD did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“The incident involving Kevin Dizmang was investigated and turned over the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office for review,” wrote CSPD communications officer Robert Tornabene, directing questions to the district attorney’s office.

In December, Fox 21 reported that CSPD officer Sean Reed and Colorado Springs Fire Department paramedic Nicholas Fischer were put on administrative leave pending investigation, but the departments did not immediately respond to questions about their employment status.

On Nov. 15, the Community Response Team initially responded to a 911 call about a man in the midst of a mental health crisis, according to reports.

Bodycam video released Wednesday by lawyers showed that when the team arrived, Dizmang was standing in a busy roadway as passersby attempted to keep him out of traffic. Dizmang was in apparent mental distress.

After initially putting his hands behind his back, Dizmang attempts to evade being handcuffed, pleading: “Please, come on. No! I didn’t do anything.”

An El Paso County Sheriff’s Office report from the next day said that “a struggle ensued and the paramedic assisted the police officer,” and that Dizmang “was placed in handcuffs and became unresponsive. The paramedic immediately rendered medical aid.”

But on video, after the responders urge him to submit to the handcuffs, Dizmang gets tackled by a responder, who is then seen leaning on the man’s upper body as Dizmang lies in a prone position.

According to the footage, labeled 1 Reed Kenda James, the responder’s arm is around Dizmang’s head and neck.

By the time the officer requests to see Dizmang’s other hand so that it can be cuffed, the 63-year-old has gone limp.

“Papa are you ok?” asks a bystander. “Hey, talk to me Kevin,” he says. “Talk to me brother.”

He was pronounced dead at 5:45 p.m., according to the El Paso County coroner report, just one hour after responders were dispatched to the scene.

On Nov. 16, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office press release declared that they would be investigating the in-custody death.

According to the fire department, the specialized mental health response team is meant to “keep people who don’t need to go to an emergency room from doing so, and if needed, receive alternate care,” according to local outlet The Gazette.

Each team is made up of a paramedic, police officer, and a clinician—the kind of collaboration that many have called for in the wake of Floyd’s death so that people in the midst of crisis can receive medical services rather than an aggressive police response.

“Our philosophy was that if we could duplicate every element from the emergency departments, bring them all into the field, streamline the process, and skip the emergency rooms, then we’d be doing everybody a great service,”Stein Bronsky, medical director for the Colorado Springs Fire Department, said in a previous interview with EMS World.

According to a 2017 article by local affiliate ABC 11, Dizmag had been receiving fewer hours of home health care to help him deal with posttraumatic stress disorder, brain injury, and personality disorder thanks to budget cuts.

“Right now, it’s not even in survival mode, which no one should just have to live in just survival mode,” Linda Dizmang, his then-wife, told the outlet at the time.

According to lawyer Harry Daniels, Dizmag’s daughter could not bring herself to watch the video of her dad’s final moments.

“She wants justice,” he said.

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