Duchesne, UT — Parents of a 13-year-old boy with autism filed a lawsuit against the Duchesne Sheriff’s Department this month after they say Sgt. Carl Reilley attacked him for no reason. The boy had committed no crime and was out walking his hamster when he was violently taken down by Reilley, handcuffed, and thrown in the back of the patrol car.
The incident happened in April as the boy, who’s unidentified for privacy reasons, took his pet hamster for a walk like he does all the time.
As the boy walked by the library, he looked inside because he wanted to ‘see the giraffes.’ However, a child’s interest in animals raised enough suspicion from Sgt. Reilley, who was driving by, to detain him.
According to Reilley, when he attempted to detain the boy — without any reasonable articulable suspicion — he ran. However, we never see the young man run on camera and the family’s attorney doesn’t believe it even happened.
As the Salt Lake Tribune reports:
Body camera footage obtained by The Tribune through a public records request begins with the teen facing the officer and holding up his hands.
The footage doesn’t show any of the interaction before Reilley got out of his car.
Then teen’s arms drooped, and the officer told him to put his hands up, which he did.
As the officer turned the teen around to handcuff his arms behind his back, the teen cried out for help. He then lunged away, at which point Reilley threw the teen to the ground amid his pleas to not be taken to jail.
There, the footage ends, because the officer turned his body camera off.
Reilley claimed he accidentally turned the camera off. As the body cam goes off, a responding Utah State Trooper’s dash cam picks up.
Even if the boy ran, the stop was not justified from the beginning, according to the lawsuit.
The teen was stopped without “reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed,” which therefore constituted an unreasonable search and seizure, the lawsuit states. In addition, Reilley’s use of force was “excessive, unlawful, and caused physical and emotional harm” to the boy, the suit stated, according to the Tribune.
“I would certainly hope that they would get additional training” in regard to identifying and approaching people with disabilities, said Tyler Ayres, the teen’s attorney.
“He didn`t run away from that officer and any assertion that he did I think is an outright falsehood,” says Ayres.
“He was terrified. He was terrified not only because he was taken out of his routine but he was violently taken out of his routine,” says Ayres.
The trooper who responded to the incident was not so aggressive and actually showed compassion toward the boy.
According to UHP Trooper Nate Mikulich’s report of the teen’s arrest, he “was visibly shaken up by the incident, and I told [him] he was a good boy and to not be afraid of officers.”
“I told [him] not to run next time an officer tries to speak with him,” the trooper wrote. “I said, ‘Next time give us a high five.’ [The teen] asked for a hug. I was emotionally shaken by the altercation and asked him for a second hug and gave him knuckles.”
Knowing that the boy was at the library to try to see the giraffes, the trooper tried to repair the child’s trust in police by arranging for the sheriff’s department to take him to the zoo.
According to the trooper’s report, Sheriff David L. Boren allegedly responded: “If the boy can’t be trusted on his own we’ll make sure he is not allowed to be out in public unsupervised.”
Boren denies saying it.
It is also not likely that this young man will trust police anytime soon as the department says that their officer, who tackled a 13-year-old boy with autism, acted accordingly.
In response to the lawsuit, Duchesne County Sheriff David Boren released the following statement Tuesday:
“My office conducted a full and fair review of the April 14 encounter between Sgt. Carl Reilley and Ms. Vallejo’s teenage son. The members of our After Action Review Panel found that Sgt. Reilley was reasonable in his use of force and acted appropriately during the interaction, except for the instance where he mistakenly and briefly switched off his body camera. I support the panel’s findings that the use of force was reasonable and their recommendation that Sgt. Reilley receive a verbal warning for mistakenly turning off his body camera.
When police claim this type of treatment of a child with special needs is justified, something needs to change. The good news is, that this lawsuit is seeking that change and the sheriff’s department has already begun training on how to deal with people who have special needs. It can’t come soon enough.