Utah man files lawsuit, saying officer tackled him, beat him as he was kneeling

Cody Greenland was unsure what was happening when three American Fork police officers suddenly converged on him with their Tasers drawn in a store parking lot.

In police body camera video, Greenland has a look of surprise on his face as he holds a bag of food in one hand and a bottle of Mountain Dew in the other. Greenland, however, complied with the commands of officers, put his hands in the air and knelt on the ground with both knees, though he continued to question what he had done.

Just a few seconds later, a fourth American Fork police officer, D.T. Cannon — who had just arrived at the scene, according to court documents — came running at the West Jordan man and tackled him from behind.

"I could feel officer Cannon coming. I could hear his equipment on him jiggling and I could feel something coming. I don't know if you've ever been tackled without pads or anything — I got hit in the spine by his knee. It like knocked the wind out of me instantly. All I could think of was to tell them, 'Stop!' 'Don't!' And try and protect my face because he was instantly punching me in the head and face," Greenland recalled.

Greenland, whose face was bloodied both from being punched and hitting the pavement, said that he still has a constant ringing in his ears from the beating, has short-term memory loss and has a hard time concentrating — and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Greenland admits he has had struggles in the past with addiction, which has gotten him in trouble with the law. But he said he has never been treated like that.

"I've been arrested in the past. I know what happens when you don't comply. I did exactly what they were asking, and I was trying to get them to tell me what I'd done wrong," he said.

Greenland along with his attorney, Robert Sykes, announced a federal lawsuit this week against Cannon, the American Fork Police Department, the city, and several other American Fork police officers. Greenland, 38, claims his constitutional rights were violated by police, saying they used excessive force, made an unlawful seizure, and several officers failed to intervene and prevent Cannon from attacking him.

The American Fork Police Department declined comment on Tuesday, noting that it is an active lawsuit.

On April 17, 2020, Greenland had been kicked out of the apartment he was living in and was trying to find his girlfriend. She told him she was shopping at Target, 57 N. 700 West, in American Fork. Greenland got a ride to the parking lot. He had all his belongings with him in a couple of duffle bags and trash bags.

He found his girlfriend's car in the parking lot, but she was not there and the car was locked. Greenland left his bags on the car and went to a nearby store. In the meantime, police received several reports of a man trying to get into cars into the parking lot, according to charging documents,

Greenland had just exited a store after buying food and was "armed with a bottle of Mountain Dew," Sykes said, and was walking back to his girlfriend's car when three officers converged on him. Sykes said his client was not armed and was cooperative.

"There were no aggressive statement or actions," he said.

According to charging documents, Greenland "assumed a defensive fighting stance" and "would not obey officers' commands." Yet in police body camera video he appears to be kneeling with his hands in the air.

In the video, moments after kneeling on the ground, Cannon tackles Greenland. Greenland can be heard yelling repeatedly at the officers, "I'm good" and "Stop!"

Surrounding officers twice deployed Tasers on him as they attempted to put him in handcuffs. Greenland kept telling the officers, "Don't tase me no more, dude," and "Don't hit me like that man" while asking several times, "What am I being arrested for?"

"You guys hate me or something? Why do you hate me?" Greenland asks in the video recording.

"You're not compliant," an officer is heard telling Greenland.

When Greenland states that he was being compliant, an officer is heard replying with an obscenity.

Greenland did have drugs in his pockets and was eventually charged in 4th District Court with several counts of drug possession as well and interfering with an arrest.

When he was arrested, American Fork police noted in their booking affidavit that "Greenland pulled away from officers as they made initial contact. He then refused verbal commands. While officers attempted to detain Greenland, he continued to resist and was tased."

Greenland said Tuesday he was not resisting, but his natural instinct was to protect his face, and then he was hit with a Taser, causing him to temporarily lose the use his arms.

"You're locking up at the same time you're trying to defend yourself. You can't move your arms, you can't respond to what they're telling you to do when you're being tased like that and punched in the face and head at the same time. I would say that he punched me 30 times," he said, while also adding that one of his hands was stomped on.

Even though police found Greenland had drugs in his pockets, they had no reason to search him, according to Sykes. After the case went to court, a motion was filed by Greenland's defense attorney for evidence to be suppressed and the charges against him were eventually dismissed.

Greenland had several other cases pending against him at that time. He admits he had drugs on that day and that he had been fighting addiction for many years. But that did not give police the right to tackle and use Tasers on him, he said.

"I know that my record looks bad. And as you can see in the video, they did find drugs on me, which still wouldn't justify them punching me in the face," he said.

Since that day two years ago, Greenland said he has turned his life around and is sober, which he said he needed to do first before addressing his arrest. But he said he knew as he was on the ground that he'd someday be seeking the body camera videos.

"Because I knew I hadn't done anything wrong," he said. "Immediately, I knew it wasn't right."

In the videos, Greenland said officers can be heard telling him that they believe the videos will show the opposite, that police were justified in their actions.

"I guess they're just trying to defend themselves because they know they're wrong, which is usually like the reaction from a child or somebody when they tell a lie when they've done something wrong. Anybody that's seen the video knows that I didn't do anything wrong, that I was doing what they were asking me to do.

"I might have been scared, but I wasn't trying to attack them," he said.