Ogden City sued by man who broke hip in scuffle with police

Tuesday , April 12, 2016 - 11:59 AM18 comments

MARK SHENEFELT, Standard-Examiner Staff

SALT LAKE CITY — An Alabama man who suffered serious injuries in a confrontation with officers in the Ogden Police Department lobby has filed a federal lawsuit alleging excessive force and violation of his Second Amendment rights.

Harold Mark Torbett, 60, names Ogden City, the police department and three officers in the U.S. District Court suit, filed Monday by Bountiful attorney Jennifer Zeleny.

The suit stems from an incident Feb. 8 when Torbett, who was driving cross-country to a new job in Seattle, entered the lobby seeking medical help. He had a .22 caliber Walther PP semi-automatic handgun, which he said he had unloaded, disassembled and placed on a chair beside him while he wanted for officers.

RELATED: Health emergency, gun possession result in broken femur at Ogden police station

After a discussion, Torbett and the officers struggled and the man was taken to the floor, handcuffed and transported to a hospital. He suffered a broken femur, Torbett said in interviews in the wake of the arrest. The lawsuit said he suffered a broken hip. He underwent surgery and rehabilitation in Ogden.

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Torbett also was suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis, a complication of diabetes that may cause mental confusion and stomach pain, the suit said. He told officers he believed he had been food-poisoned.

The suit accuses officers identified as Cody Marsh, Z. Martin and T. Williams of excessive force and brutality and accuses the city of inadequately training its police officers in the recognition of medical crises.

Further, the suit said police violated Torbett’s Second Amendment and Utah constitutional rights to carry a weapon openly.

Torbett said several times he needed immediate medical attention and the suit said Williams responded, “Do I look like I take people to the hospital?” Then Torbett tried to leave the police station and Williams threw Torbett to the floor, shattering his hip, the suit said.

In an interview after Torbett was injured and handcuffed, Ogden Police Lt. Will Cragun said, “There was no body slam.” He said Torbett splashed water from a bottle on one of the officers and resisted arrest.

“He caused alarm. He has a firearm, people see his behavior, they’re concerned,” Cragun said. “The officers try to start engaging him, he is noncompliant, and he throws soda water on them.”

Cragun said at that point, police determined Torbett may have been a danger to himself or others.

“He fights with them, and they’re doing everything they can do to control him,” Cragun said.

Security video in the lobby showed only a grainy, blurry view of the incident. Police Chief Mike Ashment said in an interview Tuesday a better camera was installed in the lobby three weeks ago.

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Torbett’s suit requested a federal court order mandating that Ogden police be equipped with body cameras.

Ashment said he could not comment on the suit because it’s active litigation, including providing the first names of officers Williams and Martin. Asked about the department’s use of body cameras, the chief said officers have been testing three varieties of cameras over the past two years.

“We want to make the right decision,” he said.

Ashment said he’s comfortable with House Bill 300, passed this year by the Legislature, which outlines requirements and prohibitions for police use of body cameras.

After the incident, Cragun said Torbett’s case was under investigation and would be screened by the Weber County Attorney’s Office for possible charges. He said Torbett may face a weapons charge because he lacked a concealed-weapons permit. He also may face charges of disorderly conduct and resisting officers, Cragun said.

Weber County Attorney Chris Allred said Tuesday he had no record of any charges being filed against Torbett. He said the case may have been referred to the Ogden City prosecutor, where misdemeanor cases are often handled. The prosecutor’s office did not immediately return a phone call Tuesday.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net or 801 625-4224.

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