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Utahn with multiple facial fractures sues officer who arrested him for shoplifting

‘It wasn’t right’: Lawsuit claims officer turned off body camera before ‘savagely beating’’ man who ran from him

Wayne Dallas North, a service technician for Nuttall’s Sewing Centers, poses for a portrait at the sewing center’s Riverton location on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021.
Wayne Dallas North, a service technician for Nuttall’s Sewing Centers, poses for a portrait at the sewing center’s Riverton location on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SOUTH JORDAN — Wayne Dallas North knows he messed up.

But North, 44, doesn't believe he deserved what happened to him the day he was arrested after running from police through a Walmart parking lot during a shoplifting investigation.

“I wasn’t doing the right things, but I had no aggression towards (the officer). So I don’t understand why he had that (aggression) towards me,” he said. “It wasn’t right.”

North, who was suspected of shoplifting at a Walmart in South Jordan, ran from a South Jordan police officer who was about to place North under arrest. But as he ran through the parking lot, North said he slowed down and was preparing to surrender when he tripped over a raised planter and fell to the ground.

The next thing he said he felt was officer Mathew Adams on top of him repeatedly punching his face while wearing tactical gloves with reinforced knuckle protection. North’s attorney, Robert Sykes, compared it to wearing brass knuckles.

North’s jaw was broken and had to be wired shut for a month, he said. He had several teeth knocked out, suffered multiple face and skull fractures, and underwent hours of reconstructive facial surgery, according to a lawsuit he has filed. Today, North said he has short-term memory loss and frequent migraine headaches.

“My head has never been right since then,” he said. “I only have about eight teeth in my mouth now so it’s really hard to chew. ... It’s not normal day-to-day living. I’ve paid my dues.”

North, along with Sykes, have filed a civil rights lawsuit against Adams, the city of South Jordan and the South Jordan Police Department claiming excessive use of force and failure by the city to properly train its officers.

The lawsuit alleges that Adams “intentionally” turned off his body camera just before “savagely” assaulting North as he lay face down on the ground defenseless. It says the officer used knuckle gloves “as a weapon of severe force” during the assault, then took them off before his supervisors arrived “to conceal the fact that they were used in the beating.”

The suit also claims Adams lied to fellow officers that North’s injuries occurred when he tripped and hit the pavement.

South Jordan released a brief statement saying the officer was cleared following an investigation.

“The officer was placed on administrative leave the following week, per department policy, pending a use-of-force review board. On Jan. 27, 2017, the board determined the officer’s use of force was within department policy and reasonable given the information the officer had at the time of the incident.”

The city declined comment on the lawsuit other than acknowledging it is aware of the suit.

On Jan. 14, 2017, North was stopped by an officer for a shoplifting investigation near 11328 S Jordan Gateway, according to the lawsuit. North claims he was not shoplifting but admits he was on probation and “doing things I shouldn’t be.”

Sykes released Adams’ body camera video in two parts. The first shows the initial contact with North as he’s being placed into custody. As Adams attempts to place handcuffs on North, he tells Adams that he’s hurting him as his hands are behind his back. Adams tells North to relax and stop tensing up.

North “became increasingly agitated” by the officer’s actions, according to the lawsuit.

“Don’t call me bro, and don’t look back,” the officer tells North as he attempts to look behind him.

“You pull away from me, run, anything like that, you’re going to get taken down hard, you understand?” Adams says in the video.

But North did run. As he took off, Adams attempted to follow but initially slipped and fell, the lawsuit states, adding that someone can be heard laughing at his fall in his body camera video.

As North reached the adjacent Sam’s Club parking lot, he “realized he made a mistake and began to slow down,” according to the lawsuit, and he got tired of running. That's when he fell to ground and stretched his arms out to his sides.

“I was going to stop and give up, so I lied down on the ground, my hands were out,” he said.

That’s when North claims Adams pounced on his back and began punching him.

“He just smashed my face in,” he said. “He didn’t give me a chance (to talk). He just pounced on my back and started pounding me.”

North said both his eye sockets were crushed and he said he suffered over 100 fractures to his face.

According to the lawsuit, “Adams struck North at least seven times in the face and head” while wearing “Oakley assault gloves.” The gloves have “hardened carbon fiber or metal knuckle covers, often referred to as ‘knuckle gloves,’” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also contends the excessive punches were “a punitive reaction” by Adams, who “was embarrassed for having fallen when the pursuit initially began. Adams was embarrassed because bystanders laughed at him.”

“The Oakley assault gloves are akin to using brass knuckles and can inflict extraordinary damage,” the lawsuit states. “The use of these gloves in this case constituted excessive force.”

In his police report, Adams’ version mostly matched North’s, except at the end. Adams stated in his report of the incident that North “had his arms in toward his body” and did not comply with his orders to put them out.

“I delivered several closed fist strikes to Wayne’s face and head area with my left hand to gain compliance” he wrote.

The first part of the body camera video ends just as Adams jumped on top of North who was on the ground. The second video restarts after Adams is in handcuffs and profusely bleeding.

North is seen on the ground bleeding with a pool of blood next to his head. He tells the officer he was attacked “for nothing.”

“I wasn’t doing anything dangerous,” North says in the video.

Later, the officer can be heard on the video saying, “You tore my pants, bro.”

“You broke my jaw, bro,” North replies.

“Oops,” Adams responds.

The lawsuit states that the actual punching of Adams was not recorded and contends, “Adams’ body camera appears to have been altered or deleted from this point in the interaction.

“Most of the events described herein are captured on Adams’ body cam, until Adams intentionally turned it off to spoil evidence,” the lawsuit alleges.

North ended up taking a plea in abeyance in court, meaning he pleaded guilty to retail theft, drug possession and failing to stop at the command of an officer. The charges were dismissed after he successfully completed the terms of his sentence, which included five months in jail and successfully completing drug court. Stolen merchandise, drugs and drug paraphernalia were found in the backpack North was carrying, according to charging documents.

Today, North says he is sober. But he is left with half a million dollars in hospital bills in addition to severe injuries.

“I’d like to be able to live my life normally without these bills over my head for one little mistake for running,” he said. “I’d like that officer fired, for one. I’d like my hospital bills paid for and attorneys fees paid for. I never thought I’d be one to sue somebody, but this needs to be made right.

“There are certain boundaries that you just don’t cross and I did not cross those boundaries that day. I feel he not only crossed them, he jumped (them) and I feel he should be punished for those just as I was for running from him, which I spent five months in jail for,” North continued.

The lawsuit does not disclose how much North is seeking in damages.