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Former felon sues WVC claiming police violated his rights

Published January 16, 2014 3:05 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

One of more than 100 defendants whose case was dismissed by Salt Lake County prosecutors has sued West Valley City in federal court, claiming his civil rights were violated by police officers.

Terry Kyle Christiansen, 41, and his wife, Brandy Christiansen, have filed suit in U.S. District Court against West Valley City, retired police chief Thayle "Buzz" Nielsen, and former West Valley City Neighborhood Narcotics officers John Coyle, Barbara Lund, Steven Beardshall, Kevin Salmon and Sean McCarthy.

The lawsuit alleges members of the now-disbanded narcotics unit entered the Christiansens' home in October 2012 and used excessive force on Terry Christiansen by slamming his head into walls, knocking his teeth loose and using a choke hold on him that made him lose consciousness.

But the criminal charges filed against Terry Christiansen in 3rd District Court allege he pulled a knife out of his pocket and cut Coyle's finger. Then Christiansen, who was on parole at the time, allegedly attempted to flush a clear vial down the toilet, which police recovered and said tested positive for methamphetamine.

The charges against Christiansen were dismissed by prosecutors in April.

The lawsuit also alleges Brandy Christiansen was illegally searched about four times, including vaginal touching by one of the male officers under "the guise of searching for drugs."

West Valley City did not respond to a message seeking comment on the lawsuit, the latest filed against members of the unit by Los Angeles attorney Mark Geragos, who is also representing the family of Danielle Willard, a 21-year-old woman shot and killed by West Valley City police in November 2012 during an alleged drug bust.

Following the shooting, a city-led probe unearthed a number of problems with the narcotics unit, including mishandling of evidence, booking evidence without proper documentation — as well as the possibility of missing drugs and money. The probe also found that seized items, such as loose change or a CD in a seized vehicle, were improperly accounted for and that officers kept "trophies" from drug busts for themselves and for use as training aids.

As a result, state and federal prosecutors have tossed more than 120 cases linked to the unit.


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