Weber County man suing Ogden, police stemming from violent arrest
Image supplied, Ogden Police Department
SALT LAKE CITY — The man taken down by police on Washington Boulevard in a rough arrest last month that he says left him with cracked ribs, a broken nose and a broken jaw is suing the City of Ogden, accusing the arresting officers of excessive use of force.
Shawn Sims’ attorney, Robert Sykes, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City on Monday, seeking punitive and other damages for what he says, in part, was the violation of the man’s rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment governs police queries of people they deem suspicious.
“Force, proportionately applied, may be justified when a suspect has committed a serious crime, is an immediate threat to officers or others, is fleeing or resisting arrest. No use of force is reasonable when a suspect is fully subdued, is not resisting, is non-violent, and/or poses no threat to the officers or anyone else,” reads the lawsuit.
Sims, as the lawsuit describes it, did not pose a threat and had not engaged in any apparent serious criminal activity when he was arrested on April 22 that might suggest he was a danger. Four officers came upon Sims while he was walking in Washington Boulevard, a busy north-south arterial, and they all took part his his arrest — first one and ultimately all four — by tackling him to the street, striking him several times as he apparently resisted them and using a Taser on him twice.
“Sims had been walking northbound on Washington Boulevard allegedly on the shoulder of the road. Sims was not threatening anyone. Sims was not acting violently in any way. Sims did not have a weapon,” reads the lawsuit. One of the four arresting Ogden officers, Zachary Young, had alleged that Sims was “using the roadway in a prohibited fashion,” the suit reads, but that, it goes on, is “at most an infraction under Utah law.”
Image supplied, Ogden Police Department
Young and the three other unidentified officers involved in Sims’ arrest are also named as defendants in the suit, along with the City of Ogden. Reps from the Ogden City Attorney’s Office didn’t immediately respond to a query Monday seeking comment.
The arrest of Sims, 30, who remains in the Weber County Jail stemming from the April 22 incident, received widespread attention in Weber County and beyond after video taken by a bystander of the confrontation was posted to social media. Sykes told the Standard-Examiner only days later that he planned to sue on the man’s behalf.
Notwithstanding the charges outlined in Sims’ lawsuit, Ogden police subsequently determined in their own investigation that the four officers’ use of force was justified when they arrested him. Now the Weber County Attorney’s Office is handling its own probe into the matter.
Ogden Police Chief Eric Young, speaking at an April 25 press conference, said the officers’ actions — striking Sims and using a Taser — were within police department policy and state code governing use of force during arrests when officers face resistance and aggression.
Sims, Eric Young said, had ignored officers’ commands to stop when they came upon him and, in fact, turned and ran away from police before halting and assuming an aggressive pose in the middle of Washington Boulevard. He reached his hand into his waistband, prompting concerns among officers that he had a gun and was preparing to pull it out, Young said.
The first officer who attempted to subdue Sims “feared that Sims had a gun and intended to harm him and Sims was not following the officer’s commands,” Young said on April 25, further explaining that the officers used the force they did in part because Sims resisted their efforts to pull his hands from his waistband so he could be handcuffed.
The man later told medical caretakers treating him that he had taken methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, according to a police probable cause affidavit in the matter.
Sims’ lawsuit paints a different picture, saying, among other things, that he had his hand in his waistband to hold up his pants.
“Sims made no verbal threats to (Zachary) Young. Sims did not attack Young. Sims had one empty hand up and the other hand partially in his waist band to hold up his pants. Young could tell that Sims was disoriented and potentially suffering from a mental health problem,” the lawsuit reads.
What’s more, the lawsuit says, once the officers had Sims on the ground, his left arm and hand were pinned under his body, making him unable to move them.
“Once taken to the ground, Sims was fully detained and not fleeing, fighting or resisting. After only a few seconds, even though Sims was detained, Young and (one of the other unidentified officers) began brutally beating Sims in the face, head, shoulders and back. The brutal beating resulted in repeatedly smashing Shawn’s face into the concrete with great force,” reads the lawsuit. “Officers later claimed falsely that Shawn was allegedly reaching in his waistband for a gun.”
In fact, as the lawsuit describes it, Sims did not resist once on the ground, giving rise to the allegations of excessive use of force.
“Sims was afraid that if he resisted or moved, the officers would shoot him. Because of his fears about the officers, Sims was forced to simply take the brutal force of the punches without saying anything or resisting,” the lawsuit reads. It goes on, saying the officers used the 45 seconds or so that it took to subdue Sims “to escalate what was at most an incident involving a minor infraction into a situation where they used extreme excessive and deadly force.”
Workers at the emergency room where police subsequently brought Sims for treatment told him that officers “had cracked four of his ribs, fractured orbital sockets, broken his nose and broken his jaw,” the suit says. He also probably suffered a concussion, it continues.
Aside from accusing officers of use of excessive use of force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the suit accuses the officers of not intervening in the use of “excessive force” by one another in violation of U.S. law. Among other allegations, it also charges the Ogden Police Department with failing to update its policies governing use of force, arguing that the shortcoming figured in the treatment Sims received.
Sims was arrested on April 22 on suspicion of four felony drug possession charges and four other lesser charges. As of Monday, he hadn’t been formally charged in 2nd District Court.