Officials accusing Heber city leader of strangling a suspect in handcuffs say the city is retaliation

Heber City Police tell FOX 13 they have faced retaliation after accusing their sheriff of strangling a handcuffed man earlier this year when he was placed in the back of a police car.

The allegations revolved around a March 31 call, when Sheriff Dave Booth was on the scene as officers responded to reports of a drunken man near 1000 South 400 West, FOX 13 reported.

Upon arrival, officers said the man, Jessie James Rodriguez, tried to fight them off and took one of their guns.

Full body camera footage obtained by FOX 13 shows Rodriguez fighting off officers and threatening to harm them before he is handcuffed and treated by paramedics.

Booth grabbed Rodriguez and took him to a patrol car with another officer. They said everything that officers present at the scene saw as appropriate. They then witness Booth repeatedly grabbing Rodriguez’s throat with his right hand as he tries to get Rodriguez into a patrol car.

A veteran Heber police officer, who said he left the department in part due to the sheriff’s conduct, agree to talk to FOX 13 on condition of anonymity. While he was not one of the officers who reported the sheriff, he said he agrees with those who did, especially after reviewing body camera video obtained by FOX 13.

“I couldn’t hear or know if the suspect was breathing,” police told FOX 13. “I couldn’t hear or speak. I saw that it was a grab and there was a pressure put on the trachea. “

“We ourselves have an obligation to the police,” he continued. “No one is above the law. No one is allowed to do whatever they want. I don’t care if you’re the sheriff. You can’t do that to someone handcuffed to the back of a police car. You can not do it “.

Sgt. Jason Jarvie, who was not at the scene, reviewed dashcam footage and listened to statements from at least one officer involved who witnessed the struggle to bring Rodriguez in. patrol car. He decided to file a formal complaint.

Officers said they felt they had to report the use of force, according to department policy. Booth doesn’t submit a use of force report, FOX 13 reported.

Accusations of retaliation

Jarvie said his supervisors encouraged him to be fired after reporting it to the sheriff. Since then, he has left the department “just because of the city’s retaliatory actions,” he told FOX 13. Jarvie provided FOX 13 with a copy of his personnel file, for see he was never disciplined.

The City of Heber violated Utah’s employee whistleblower law, Cameron Platt, an attorney representing Jarvie, told FOX 13. The law protects employees in good faith from making complaints.

“The way the city treats (complaints) and responds is much more important (than the use of force), and much worse,” Platt told FOX 13. “If it was a use of force, such a small force, why go to so much effort to cover it up? ”

Chris Burbank, a former Salt Lake City police chief, agreed to look into the case with FOX 13.

“It’s absolutely a case that needs to be revisited,” Burbank said. “Especially for the position the department took not long before this happened in regards to any kind of neck restraint or suffocation.”

Burbank was referring to an email that sergeant Heber City used force sent months before the incident, FOX 13 reported. According to the email, the sergeant reminded officers that “any type of chopping (sic) technique is not allowed”.

Booth shouldn’t have touched the suspect along with so many other uniformed officers at the scene, Burbank said.

“As a manager, I never wanted to put my officers in a position to investigate me. Burbank said.

The City of Heber placed Booth on administrative leave for over a month before finally clearing all of his wrongdoing, FOX 13 reported.

City refuses to release records

The city has refused to release the full-body camera video, talk about the incident or explain why Booth was placed on leave, despite numerous completed investigations. FOX 13 captured all body camera video independently.

Detective Tammy Thacker, a spokesman for the department, ignored many of FOX 13’s requests for comment. Booth also declined requests for comment, FOX 13 reported.

FOX 13 found that Booth’s blunt denial of the incident contradicted his statements to state investigators.

“It’s clear that some force was used to get him on board,” a Department of Public Safety investigator said in a recorded interview with Booth. “Wouldn’t you be surprised if there was bodycam or dashcam footage showing you at one point putting your hand on his neck?”

“No, I don’t think that would be surprising,” Booth replied. “I just see it as something I’ve done hundreds, hundreds of times.”

FOX 13 reports that Heber City Mayor Kelleen Potter sent an email says Booth will return to work in August – just days after the state cleared him of criminal charges. The email said that multiple investigations had found the complaints to be “unproven…said to be baseless and worthless”, although Potter did not specify what the complaints were.

A spokesman for the Department of Public Safety told FOX 13 he was unable to interpret Potter’s email, because investigators never told Heber City that the complaint was “baseless” or “worthless.” treat”.

The city convened a mandatory meeting of the police department the day after Potter sent the email, according to multiple police officers.

“(Potter) is very upset that someone in our agency has been on the media…” an officer tell FOX 13. “She told us – and I told her, this is Kelleen Potter from Heber City – that she believes in karma and ‘karma’.”

City Attorney Mark Smedley verified the mayor’s comments but said he couldn’t remember the context. Potter ignored FOX 13’s request for comment.

Internal investigation concerns

Potter placed Jarvie and Booth in an internal investigation conducted by the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office as part of the case. But several Heber city officers said they believe Sheriff Jared Rigby is incapable of conducting an objective investigation because he is friends with Booth, FOX 13 reported. The city and county both declined to provide copies of the completed investigation.

Videos obtained by FOX 13 show Rigby repeatedly speaking on behalf of the city, sometimes giving lectures or threatening officers rather than asking questions.

“There was no excessive use of force, and so your perception is wrong,” Rigby told a concerned officer. “What Dave Booth did was not even the use of force.”

“It really goes to the future – your future in the police department,” continued Rigby. “So you can dig deep and say, ‘This is how I feel and no one will change,’ and okay, that’s your decision. You won’t get any reliable positions regarding (defensive tactics), use of force, and sergeant major, and that sort of thing, because you’re not willing to learn and be open to it. . “

Rigby ignored FOX 13’s request for comment and continued to decline to provide a copy of its internal investigation.

Many officers have left the Heber City Police Department as a result of the case, and others say they are in the process of doing the same.

See more at FOX 13.

Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune and FOX 13 are content sharing partners. Officials accusing Heber city leader of strangling a suspect in handcuffs say the city is retaliation

Yasmin Harisha

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