WEST JORDAN — A man who suffered extensive injuries after a police K-9 latched onto his face has reached a settlement with West Jordan police and the city.
On March 24, 2013, police were called to Martin Lee Hoogveldt's trailer home, 7079 S. 1115 West, after he lit his neighbor's garbage can on fire and threatened them with a knife, according to charging documents.
Responding officers recorded the ensuing confrontation on their body cameras. Officers standing outside Hoogveldt's door could see him through the window sitting on his couch. The officers are clearly heard stating, "Come to the door or it's going to get kicked."
Hoogveldt said he was too petrified to move, so he stayed on the couch.
After officers entered Hoogveldt's home, the video showed him reclining on a couch with his legs propped up. The officers told him several times to slowly stand up. Instead, Hoogveldt raised both his hands in the air.
With his hands up, police K-9 Pyro, a German shepherd, was released, leaped onto Hoogveldt and latched onto his face. It took officers between 15 and 30 seconds to pry the dog off. With blood gushing from his face, the officers attempted to handcuff Hoogveldt while he was on the ground.
Police used their Taser on Hoogveldt several times, and then Pyro bit his rear end as officers were on top of Hoogveldt. After he appeared to be in custody and no longer struggling with officers, a chair was accidentally tipped over onto his forehead leaving an open gash.
West Jordan contended that officers were concerned Hoogveldt might have had a knife hidden in the couch cushions and was just waiting for an officer to get closer.
Hoogveldt and his attorney, Bob Sykes, filed a civil lawsuit against West Jordan police officer Ian Adams, Pyro's handler, and the West Jordan Police Department.
Wednesday, it was announced that a settlement had been reached and is expected to be officially approved by the City Council at its weekly meeting. Sykes said his client will get $125,000 and his medical bills have been resolved.
In reaching a settlement, West Jordan did not admit the police officers did anything wrong.
"I think there has been an honorable compromise reached (between) two sides that have different opinions," Sykes said. "No one is admitting their side is right or wrong. We stand by the allegations we made in the complaint. We believe those are accurate and fair. They're denying all that. So they have their side of it and we have ours and we're not going to agree that one side or the other is correct. We agree to disagree, basically."
West Jordan police released a brief statement Wednesday, saying, "The city of West Jordan and Mr. Hoogveldt have signed a settlement agreement and release of all claims. It is not an admission of liability or any wrongdoing. Our attorneys have determined it is more cost effective to put this behind us rather than draw it out in court."
Still, Sykes contends his client's constitutional rights were violated.
"We think that's excessive force. We stand by that. They disagree. But we think the camera, the video, tells it all," he said. "Just because he doesn't answer the door doesn't give officers a right to kick his door in and then sic a dog on him."
For the incident that day, Hoogveldt eventually took a plea in abeyance to charges of aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, and two counts of reckless burning. As part of his sentence, he was ordered to seek treatment at Valley Mental Health, according to court records.
Just 10 days earlier, Hoogveldt was charged in Midvale Justice Court with several misdemeanors. He also took a plea in abeyance in that case to disorderly conduct and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to court records.
He was also charged in two other cases. Those charges were later dismissed.
Sykes said Hoogveldt still has significant scarring to remind him of the incident and numbness in part of his face, but he has "moved on" and currently holds a steady job.
"He has overcome a lot of his problems he had at that time," he said.
In the bigger picture, Sykes believes that challenging police departments in the form of civil suits helps the public.
"I think anytime you have a claim of police abuse like this that is a legitimate claim, and you can see it on a video like this, and the officers are called to account for it, and there's a resolution, I think that helps the community, I do," he said. "When there is accountability to police officers you get better policing. Problems arise when there's no accountability."
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