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Colorado Springs demands justice for Dezarae Archuleta

Civilian oversight of El Paso County Sheriff’s Department needed
By Staff |
October 31, 2022
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Memorial for Dezarae Archuleta outside of El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
Memorial for Dezarae Archuleta outside of El Paso County Sheriff's Office. (Fight Back! News/staff)

Colorado Springs, CO - On Tuesday, October 25, community members and activists with the Colorado Springs People’s Coalition attended the El Paso County Commissioners board meeting to demand civilian oversight of the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center. The call for civilian oversight came after the death of 18-year-old Dezarae Archuleta in El Paso County Jail, the eighth person to die in custody this year. The event was co-sponsored by the Chinook Center and the Democratic Socialists of America.

In June of this year, Dezarae Archuleta committed suicide while detained at El Paso County Criminal Justice Center. Though she exhibited signs of emotional distress, Archuleta was removed from suicide watch sometime during her 21-day stay and the family was never notified. Due to this tragedy and other unexplained deaths in the jail, the Colorado Springs People’s Coalition, as well as Archuleta’s family began calling for independent civilian oversight of El Paso County Criminal Justice Center.

“There is a humanitarian crisis at El Paso County Criminal Justice Center,” said Colorado Springs People’s Coalition organizer Brandon Rincon during the public comment period. “If you do not do everything in your power to establish independent civilian oversight, more people will die and commissioners will have blood on your hands.”

Shelly Romero, Archuleta’s mother, also spoke at the public comment period, stating about the El Paso County Sheriffs, “I need them to be held accountable for it and acknowledge it. It's nothing to them. It's just another name that goes on their list of deaths. And she was my daughter."

In addition to demanding the establishment of independent civilian oversight, the Colorado Springs People’s Coalition also demanded bail reform and reparations for emotional damages caused to families whose relatives have died while in sheriff's custody. Despite the community support for these demands, the commissioners board refused to take action, or even acknowledge the deaths that have taken place at El Paso County Criminal Justice Center.

After the commissioner’s meeting, protesters marched to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. Once at the office, family members constructed a memorial for Archuleta and demanded Sheriff Bill Elder take responsibility for the deaths under his watch. Elder did not make an appearance.

Colorado Springs People’s Coalition will continue to organize alongside the Archuleta family to demand justice for Dezarae and all other victims of police negligence by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department.