The mother of a man beaten by Ogden police for allegedly not showing his hands to officers is disputing the police department’s version of what happened and claims the department is attempting to justify its actions after the fact.
Marsha Quintana and her attorney Robert Sykes held a press conference Monday to announce the filing of a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Quintana’s son, 30-year-old Shawn D. Lane Sims, against the Ogden Police Department, the city and several individual officers, claiming there was “no justification” for what happened to him April 22.
On that day, Sims was spotted walking in traffic in the 1700 block of Washington Boulevard. An officer attempted to talk to Sims, but he ran from the officer before being taken to the ground.
Video recorded on a bystander’s cellphone showed what appeared to be four officers punching Sims multiple times with closed fists as he was on the pavement. The video quickly gained attention after being shared on social media and with the media.
On April 25, Ogden police held a press conference to explain what their internal investigation found and to release body camera video from the police officers.
Ogden Police Chief Eric Young said the officers were “in fear for their lives” because Sims would not take his hand out of his waistband. Once Sims was tackled by police and on the ground, Young said he rolled onto his stomach and kept his hands underneath him, prompting officers to strike Sims “with fists in the head, shoulder and back area numerous times trying to gain compliance,” in addition to deploying a Taser on him twice.
The video ends with Sims being led to a sidewalk curb to sit down. His face is bloody. His family says he suffered multiple orbital fractures, temporarily lost vision in one of his eyes, and may have neurological damage.
Young cleared his officers, saying they acted within department policy.
In the lawsuit filed Monday, Sykes contends Sims was not being violent nor making threats and did not resist arrest after running a short distance.
“You can see both of his hands, he has no weapons,” Sykes said. “There is no justification to use this amount of force for an offense like that just because you allegedly can’t see his hands. And I don’t think that's true. I think that's a falsehood. I think they could see his hands. They had his hands.”
In the body camera video, officers can be heard yelling, “Keep your hands out of there,” “Give me your hands” and “Stop reaching in your waistband” as Sims is punched and the Taser is deployed.
But Sykes contends police were trying to create “false evidence” and accused the department of trying to justify the actions of its officers during their press conference.
“The officers cannot create the need to use force. They cannot escalate the situation and create the need to use force. And that happened here,” Sykes said. “Just because it’s in policy doesn't make it constitutional. It can still be excessive. And the number of strikes and viciousness with which they occurred is, I think, astonishing here. I've seldom seen that.
“This disturbs me. When I saw that press conference, the way they justified this beating, saying, ‘Well, it’s in our policy to use a distraction strike.’ You've got four strong police officers on top of this guy, holding him down and they're beating the daylights out of him,” he continued.
Quintana says her son is not a violent person.
“He has a huge heart. He struggles with drug addiction. But he's a good man. He’s not a violent person. Of course, Ogden’s press conference made him look to be. But he's not. He did not have a gun that day. He did not have any drugs or drug paraphernalia on him that day. He was simply walking down the street and then the incident took place,” she said.
Quintana disputes the notion that her son may have been trying to commit suicide-by-cop. She believes the officers knew her son did not have a gun and beat him “unnecessarily.”
“He said, ‘They got me bad. They held me down and they beat me, they tased me.’ He said, ‘I didn't fight them because I didn't want to die.’ He said, ‘I was afraid they were going to kill me, Mom. And I didn't fight them because I didn't want to die,’” his mother recounted.
According to police, in a recorded jailhouse phone conversation between Sims and his mother after he was arrested, Sims said, “I did the stupid … finger gun thing, again, honestly.”
But Quintana says she never heard her son say that.
“You better believe that if I heard my son say that, there would have been acknowledgement. I did not acknowledge that because I did not hear my son say that,” she said. “There would have been a conversation between he and I about that.”
Quintana wiped away tears as Sykes replayed the bodycam video at the press conference, which she could not watch. She says when she finally got to see her son a week after his arrest, “I was floored at his face, and the swelling and the bruising. It was horrific. To see your child like that is very disturbing.”
The lawsuit claims Sims’ civil rights were violated by the officers using excessive force and by some of the officers for failing to intervene and stop the others from beating him. The lawsuit also claims the city of Ogden has “municipal liability” because of an alleged “pattern” of behavior of its officers using excessive force in recent years.
The Ogden Police Department on Monday declined to comment on the lawsuit.