Pubdate: Thu, 16 Aug 2012
Source: Missoulian (MT)
Copyright: 2012 Missoulian
Author: Gwen Florio


Missoula city and county law enforcement officers knew Colton 
Peterson was suicidal when they pressured him to name drug dealers in 
2010, according to a federal lawsuit filed by Peterson's parents.

In fact, William and Juliena Darling repeatedly spoke to police and a 
sheriff's detective about their son's suicidal tendencies, and even 
confiscated his handgun, the complaint filed in U.S. District Court 
in Missoula contends.

But police pushed the 21-year-old Missoula man hard, telling him at 
1:30 p.m. on July 27, 2010, that if he didn't come up with more 
names, "we'll put you so far away no one will ever find you," the 
complaint contends.

At 4 p.m. that same day, Peterson shot himself with a hunting rifle.

The Darlings seek at least $300,000 in compensatory damages, as well 
as attorneys' fees and unspecified punitive damages for, among other 
things, violating their son's constitutional rights. The suit also is 
filed on behalf of their son's estate.

In addition to Missoula city and county, it names the Missoula Police 
Department, Police Chief Mark Muir and police Detective David 
Krueger; the Missoula County Sheriff's Department, sheriff's 
Detective John Gunter and former Sheriff Mike McMeekin; as well as up 
to 25 unnamed people who allegedly contributed to the situation.

Attorneys for the city, police department and Muir have responded 
that nothing in the suit justifies granting relief for any alleged 
violation of Peterson's federal rights. Nor were Peterson's state 
constitutional rights violated, according to the response filed by 
Natasha Prinzing Jones and Tracey Neighbor Johnson of the Boone Karlberg firm.

In fact, the response said, "Colton Peterson violated his own 
constitutional responsibilities ... and those violations caused the 
damages or injuries of Colton Peterson, Plaintiff Juliena Darling and 
Plaintiff William Darling."

It also states that Peterson's and the Darlings' emotional distress 
was not "serious or severe," and seeks the suit's dismissal, as well 
as reimbursement for costs.


According to the Darlings' suit:

The couple learned their son had a handgun and was threatening 
suicide on July 22, 2010. The next day, three people invaded 
Peterson's home. He pointed his gun at them, but it misfired and they 
beat him up.

Although Peterson called police, no investigative report was filed. 
In the meantime, his father took his gun and ammunition to prevent 
his son from hurting himself.

On July 26, city police officer Krueger and sheriff's Detective 
Gunter seized marijuana and paraphernalia from Peterson's apartment, 
after which Krueger began pressuring him to pass along the name of 
major drug dealers.

Throughout, the Darlings were speaking with law enforcement about 
their fears that their son was suicidal, the suit says.

The city's response largely goes along with that version, although it 
specifies that "the Missoula County Attorney's Office declined to 
prosecute the males for assault due to a lack of evidence that the 
use of force on Colton Peterson was not justified."

Peterson did pass along information about cocaine and marijuana 
dealers in the Missoula area, it said, and told Krueger the day 
before he killed himself that he felt "a lot more relaxed."

The next day, Peterson gave no indication he'd hurt himself, it said.

The county has yet to file its response.

Preliminary pretrial statements in the case are due Oct. 16.
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