A Colorado Springs man claims in a lawsuit against the United States that he was beaten by a drunken member of Fort Carson's mounted color guard during the 2015 Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo.
Brandon Bunting's suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Denver, seeks financial compensation for "permanent physical impairment," medical expenses and loss of earnings due to the alleged July 12, 2015 incident, which he claims happened in a camping area on the rodeo grounds.
Bunting's suit says drunken color guard member Davide Benavides picked a fight with civilians at the rodeo.
"Due to his negligent intoxication, defendant struck plaintiff with his fists, knocking him to the ground where he proceeded to kick and strike plaintiff, knocking him unconscious and inflicting serious and permanent injuries on the plaintiff," the suit claims.
The suit alleges "members and supervisors of the Army color guard began drinking to the point of extreme intoxication beginning in the morning and were intoxicated while in uniform and while they were performing at the rodeo."
By allowing its members to drink, Bunting claims, the Army was "negligent" and color guard members "failed to act reasonably, prudently or with due care, endangering other persons."
Bunting also named Benavides as the defendant in a civil suit that's pending in El Paso County's 4th Judicial District. The color guard's Facebook page identified Benavides as a member of the team in 2015. Benavides was arrested and charged with assault for an incident on July 12, 2015. Court records show the assault charge was dropped and he pleaded guilty to a count of disorderly conduct.
Fort Carson said Tuesday that Benavides was discharged on April 26.
"We are not going to discuss any ongoing court case," Fort Carson said in a statement. "We are cooperating with the Department of Justice during this situation. Fort Carson expects its Soldiers to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the Army values."
Bunting's lawyer, Kirk McCormick of Colorado Springs, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
In the suit, Bunting says a damage claim filed with the Army was denied in May, triggering the court filing.
Fort Carson's mounted color guard has ridden to fame at events across the Pikes Peak region and state. This month, its riders led the Veterans Day parade down Tejon Street and on Monday they performed ceremonial duties at a promotion ceremony for a Fort Carson general.
Dressed in uniforms last used in the Spanish-American War, the color guard troops carry the American flag and the 4th Infantry Division's colors at events. Two of the four riders pack sabers for ceremonial salutes.
They have been a staple at the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo for years.
In general, the federal government is immune from lawsuit thanks to a series of laws barring court claims for damages. By claiming that the Army caused the assault and battery of Bunting, though, the color guard suit could thread the needle of federal immunity, which includes an exception that allows some assault claims to proceed.
The government has two months to respond to the suit.