The family of a 30-year-old man who was beaten by Ogden police officers during his April 22 arrest sued law enforcement in federal court Monday, claiming the beatings were “a gross abuse of police power.”
“They beat him needlessly,” Shawn Sims’ mother, Marsha Quintana, said Monday at her attorney’s office in Salt Lake City during a news conference announcing the lawsuit. “He didn’t fight her, he wasn’t violent, he didn’t threaten her. They just hit him for being there.”
Sims’ constitutional rights have been violated, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Monday morning. “The four OPD officers represented an overwhelming force that Sims would not have been able to flee or otherwise threaten them,” the lawsuit reads.
“Since no one else was in the immediate vicinity, there was no immediate danger for the four officers or anyone else and therefore no need to use force,” it said.
Only one of the four officers involved in the arrest was identified in Monday’s complaint: Zachary Young. The other three were not immediately named, but listed as accused.
Ogden Police declined to comment on the lawsuit Monday.
The beatings against Ogden came after police said officers saw Sims in traffic near 17th Street and Washington Boulevard around 5:40 p.m. on April 22.
When Sims saw the officers pull over, he reached into his waistband, then pointed his finger at the officers from under his shirt and pretended to have a gun, police said.
Officers ordered him to stop, but Sims ran away with his hand in his waistband, police said. Shortly after, an officer brought him to the ground, where police said Sims rolled onto his stomach and continued to ignore orders to take his hands off his waistband.
When four officers tried to force Sims to show them his hands, two of the officers hit him multiple times on the head, shoulder and back, police said. Officers also tasered Sims twice — once in his back and once in his side.
Ogden Police Chief Eric Young said at a news conference in April that officers were justified in using force against Sims because he acted like he had a gun. But the lawsuit, filed Monday, says the officers’ actions were “premeditated, malicious and reckless.”
In the complaint, Sims’ family alleges that Sims walked on the shoulder of Washington Boulevard and did not enter the roadway until officers pulled up behind him.
They also argue that prior to the beating, Sims had his hand in his waistband because he was holding his pants up, and that when Sims turned to face police officers, he did not make verbal threats and did not attack them.
In body cam footage, Sims can be seen running away after a squad car drove by and officers got out and gave chase. But the lawsuit states that “once Sims was brought down, he was completely restrained and did not flee, fight, or resist.”
“Sims was afraid that if he resisted or moved, officers would shoot him,” the lawsuit says. “Because of his fear of the officers, Sims was forced to simply endure the brutal force of the beating without saying anything or resisting.”
Beatings were unjustified, the lawsuit alleges
As officers got Sims to his feet after the beating and sat him on the edge of a sidewalk, one of the officers can be heard in body camera video saying, “Why are you reaching out like you have a gun, dude? Are you trying to get me to do something stupid to you?”
During an April news conference about the beating, Police Chief Eric Young played audio from a phone call between Sims and his mother after his arrest, in which Sims told her, “I think so.”
When asked about that statement Monday, Quintana said she didn’t hear him say it. Attorney Robert Sykes, representing Sims, said: “Even if it’s true that Shawn said he had a gun, even if it’s true, it doesn’t justify the brutal beating when they have his hands and there are four men on top of him. ”
After his arrest while Sims was in a holding cell at the Weber County Jail, an officer asked him why he was pretending to have a gun. Sims responded that “he had a lot of problems with his mind,” quoting Eric Young, adding that Sims “hoped [the Ogden Police Department] would have shot [him].”
The lawsuit denies that Sims made any such statement, as does Quintana.
Sims suffered facial fractures and bleeding behind one eye when he was repeatedly beaten by police, Eric Young said in April.
Quintana shared a more detailed account of Sims’ injuries in a GoFundMe campaign she launched in the wake of the beating, explaining that he suffered a “broken nose, a broken jaw, broken eye sockets and a complete loss of vision in one of his.” eyes” suffered. The lawsuit states that Sims also suffered a concussion.
On Monday, Quintana said her son’s vision is slowly returning and that the bruising and swelling have reduced, but she suspects he may have neurological problems from the beating.
Sims remains jailed on suspicion of prohibited activity by a pedestrian on the street; failure to stop when ordered to by law enforcement; intoxication; possession of a controlled substance; disrupting an arresting officer; and violation of probation or probation, prison records show.
As of Monday afternoon, he had not been formally charged with a crime.