CHEYENNE – A local man is suing two Laramie County Sheriff’s deputies for their actions during a January 2020 welfare check that ended in the man and his mother being stunned and arrested.
In the civil suit, Devin Bryant of Cheyenne alleges that Deputies Jason Gillott and Ryan Lee violated his Fourth Amendment rights and acted negligently when they “violently ripped Mr. Bryant out of his home and stunned Mr. Bryant and his mother without legal justification.” Gillott and Lee had been prompted to check on Bryant after his estranged wife called the department about an email Bryant sent saying he had cut himself.
The civil case, brought against Gillott and Lee in both their individual and official capacities, was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. It was amended Wednesday to include the Laramie County Board of Commissioners in the negligence charges, alleging the county board is liable for wrongful acts committed by its peace officers.
Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Deputy Jeff Barnes said the department was aware of the lawsuit but could not comment on ongoing litigation.
He said both Gillott and Lee are currently employed with the department.
When asked what the department’s typical procedure was when conducting welfare checks and what conduct rose to the level of an interference charge, Barnes said: “We approach each situation in the same manner, with safety in mind. First we gather the facts, and then base our decisions from the totality of the circumstances.”
Board of Commissioners Chairman Gunnar Malm said he could not comment on pending litigation.
Immediately following the incident, Bryant and his mother, Shelli Bryant, were arrested and charged with misdemeanor interference with a peace officer. The charges were dropped in April, according to Laramie County Circuit Court records.
The lawsuit claims the deputies injured Bryant’s arms and body and “greatly exacerbated previously diagnosed anxiety, depression and PTSD.” The suit asks for a trial to prove the claims, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney and expert fees and any other relief deemed appropriate by the court.
Body camera footage made available to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle confirms the incident took place largely as described in the lawsuit. An attorney representing Bryant said the videos were provided to him and his client by the Laramie County District Attorney’s Office during discovery.
The lawsuit alleges that the only information the deputies had at the time of the incident was from Bryant’s estranged wife, and that the deputies did not have a warrant.
What body cam footage shows
At 2:44 a.m. Jan. 28, 2020, Gillott and Lee went to Bryant’s home to conduct a welfare check after his estranged wife’s concerned call, the lawsuit says.
The body cam footage shows that, upon arrival, both deputies knock on opposite sides of the residence several times and identify themselves as being from the sheriff’s department. Shortly after, a man, referred to in the lawsuit as Shelli Bryant’s boyfriend, opens the door. Gillott identifies himself and Lee, asking if Devin Bryant is at the residence.
“He’s not in any trouble – we just want to check on his welfare,” Gillott says, and the man agrees to get Bryant.
Bryant appears in the doorway, the screen door partially open, his mother standing behind him. Gillott, standing on the porch, explains that the department received a call from Bryant’s estranged wife. Bryant confirms having sent the woman an email, though he says it was a couple of days ago, rather than the previous day. Bryant says he had been drinking when he wrote the email and was in a “bad mood” at the time, but says calmly that he is “fine.”
Gillott then says to Bryant: “All right, do me a favor. Just, let’s – let me have a look at your arms.”
Bryant replies: “No, no, I don’t need to let you look at anything,” to which Gillott says, “OK, all right, all right.” Gillott reiterates that he is there to check on Bryant’s welfare. Bryant says: “I’m good now.”
“If they’re old, I’m gonna get in my car and leave you alone,” Gillott says, referring to possible injuries on Bryant’s arms.
Bryant again calmly refuses. Lee, now also on the porch, responds: “Yes, you actually have to at this point, ‘cause right now, based on everything, we could take you to the hospital right this moment.”
Bryant again refuses, saying the deputies could “come right back with a warrant,” as Lee says, “OK, go ahead and step out here then,” reaching into the residence and grabbing Bryant’s left arm.
“Don’t resist,” Lee says, pulling on Bryant’s jacket as Bryant tries to back into the residence.
Shelli Bryant, also present in the doorway, repeatedly yells for her boyfriend and says, “Stop, you guys.” Lee tells Shelli Bryant to step back, and she replies, “No, stop,” pulling back on her son’s jacket.
“You’re going to go ahead and get tased,” Lee says, as Gillott pulls out a stun gun and points it at the pair, firing first at Shelli and then at Devin.
About one minute and 30 seconds elapses between Bryant coming to the door and he and his mother being stunned, according to the footage.
Shelli falls to the porch as she and Devin scream in pain. The two are then handcuffed and led to the deputies’ patrol vehicles. Both were taken to the Laramie County jail, according to the lawsuit, where they were each charged with one count of interference with a peace officer.
The lawsuit alleges Devin Bryant “appeared in no distress and was not a threat to anyone, including himself. Mr. Bryant had not committed a crime, nor was there any suspicion that he had committed a crime.”
“Without question, Deputy Lee unnecessarily escalated this respectful conversation into a threatening and dangerous confrontation,” the lawsuit says.