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Salt Lake City police confirmed Thursday that they are investigating whether excessive force was used in arresting a man accused of severing an officer's ear with blows from a wrought-iron lawn ornament.
The early Wednesday morning incident occurred outside the Pauliner Apartments, 125 S. 300 East, where the suspect 23-year-old Leon Dane Hall allegedly had been pounding on doors. When an officer responded to a 911 call and confronted him, Hall allegedly struck the officer on the head with the ornament, cutting off his ear and gashing the lawman's forehead.
The officer, aided by other officers arriving at the scene, subdued the suspect with his baton and stun gun. The man was arrested.
The officer, whose name was not released, and Hall ended up in the hospital.
Both were released later Wednesday the officer after his ear was surgically reattached, and Hall after treatment for minor injuries sustained in the struggle.
Hall was then booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on suspicion of assaulting a police officer and criminal mischief.
No formal charges were filed as of Thursday.
Hall has made crime-story headlines before. He claimed in August 2011 to have been the target of a still-unsolved gay-bashing attack outside a Salt Lake City dance club. Subsequent investigation, however, led detectives to question whether Hall had actually been beaten over a drug dispute, not sexual orientation.
Prior to Wednesday's clash with police, Hall's criminal history is long, but mostly minor, including a string of misdemeanor drug possession, interfering with a police officer, criminal mischief, destruction of property, disorderly conduct, driving without a license and leaving the scene of an injury accident offenses.
On Thursday, SLCPD stated that officers involved in the arrest of Hall were wearing body cameras. Footage from those cameras was being reviewed by an internal departmental investigation and a separate probe by the Civilian Review Board.
Witnesses claim to have heard Hall calling for help as he was taken down by officers, shot with a stun gun and struck with batons.
Hall's brother Eli Hall told gaysaltlake.com, which posted a purported video of the arrest, that his sibling was wrong in assaulting the officer, but that the man suffers from schizophrenia and brain damage from the 2011 assault.
SLCPD did not say whether its investigation was generated internally or by an outside complaint.