Family sues over shooting death at Lafayette assisted living facility

Feb. 6—The family of a maintenance worker shot and killed in 2021 by a patient at an assisted living facility in Lafayette has filed lawsuits alleging that the center allowed the accused shooter to have a weapon despite knowing he was suffering from delusions and had made threats to employees.

Court records show the widow of Ricardo Medina-Rojas filed one complaint in March 2022 and another on Thursday in Boulder District Court. The second lawsuit adds a defendant, SAL of Colorado.

The lawsuits name as defendants the accused shooter, Okey Payne, as well as Legacy Assisted Living, SAL of Colorado, Waneka Park Assisted Living Residence, Madison Realty Equities and three individuals who owned or managed Legacy and SAL.

According to an arrest affidavit, Payne shot Medina-Rojas, 44, at Legacy Assisted Living, 225 Waneka Parkway, at 7:15 a.m. Feb. 3, 2021.

Medina-Rojas, who had been a maintenance employee at the facility for nine years, was transported to Good Samaritan Medical Center and initially placed on life support, but he was pronounced dead that afternoon.

Police said Payne had been suffering from delusions and believed Medina-Rojas and other members of the staff had been stealing money and spying on him.

Payne, 97, was charged with first-degree murder, but officials deemed it was unlikely he would ever be mentally fit to stand trial. Payne remains in a secure facility at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo.

The most recent lawsuit filed by Medina-Rojas's family is seeking damages for wrongful death, negligence, premises liability, outrageous conduct and negligent entrustment.

According to the lawsuit, Payne was suffering from delusions and had become paranoid that people were spying on him with cameras and listening devices and that employees were stealing money from him.

Those claims were investigated but were deemed to be unsubstantiated.

According to the most recent lawsuit, a Legacy employee recalled Payne had said several times in late 2020 of Medina-Rojas and another employee, "Someday I'm going to kill them. What are they going to do? Give me life?"

Employees found that Payne had a rifle and a handgun and confiscated those items, according to the lawsuit. Staff later discovered that Payne kept another handgun in a bag attached to his walker, but they failed to confiscate that weapon. The lawsuit did not say when that weapon was discovered.

The lawsuit stated that an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Legacy management was aware that Payne still had a firearm.

According to the lawsuit, possession of a firearm was in violation of Legacy's policies and could have resulted in him being discharged.

"Notwithstanding defendants' knowledge that Payne kept firearms at the Legacy facility, that his mental condition, including paranoia, was worsening and that he had made numerous threats of violence against Legacy employees and specific threats against Medina-Rojas, defendants did next to nothing to address the increasing danger from Payne," the lawsuit read.