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The mother of an autistic boy has filed a federal lawsuit alleging excessive force against Duchesne County, its sheriff and a sheriff's sergeant after the boy was handcuffed and bruised during his arrest by the sergeant earlier this year.
An internal review of the officer's conducted by the Sheriff's Office, however, found that the sergeant acted appropriately during the interaction, except for mistakenly switching off his body camera.
On April 14, the 13-year-old boy wearing goggles, which he often wore, the lawsuit states took his pet hamster for a walk to the library in Duchesne, according to the lawsuit filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court.
The Salt Lake Tribune is not releasing the teen's name because he is a minor.
Sgt. Carl Reilley reported seeing the teenager "peeking into the windows of the local library" at noon, according to an internal review conducted by the Duchesne County Sheriff's Office.
Reilley, still in his car, called the teen over, and the teen ran, Duchesne County police Lt. Jeremy Curry told The Salt Lake Tribune last week. But the teen stopped after about 10 steps, when Reilley told him to stop, Curry said.
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.
A Utah Highway Patrol trooper pulled up at the library in time to see the boy on the ground in handcuffs, being restrained by Reilley and shouting, "Don't shoot me," according to the trooper's report.
"Knock it off, no one is going to shoot you," the trooper reported saying to the boy.
The trooper began assisting Reilley, but he soon realized that the teen had autism, according to his report, and helped him off the ground. The lawmen then took the boy home.
The lawsuit said the teen suffered bruising and emotional distress due to the episode.
The Sheriff's Office found that 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," said Duchesne County Sheriff David L. Boren last week in an email.
A Sheriff's Office review panel watched the body camera footage and determined that the device was not turned off intentionally. Reilley said he didn't remember turning the camera on when he got out of his car, and that he thought he was turning it on when he actually switched it off.
Lights that indicate whether a body camera is recording are difficult to see in bright sunlight, Curry said. The county found Reilley's explanation to be reasonable, and it gave him a verbal warning, according to the internal review report.
A combination of circumstances justified Reilley's use of force, according to the county.
Duchesne has a daytime curfew for children during school hours, the report states, giving Reilley "reasonable suspicion to find out if [the teen] was supposed to be in school at the time." The report also cites recent theft and burglaries at the library as enough cause for Reilley to detain the teen.
According to a dispatch recording, Reilley had been returning from a report of a suspicious man at a gas station before he drove past the library and saw the teen. The teen, 13, is Hispanic, the lawsuit states, and does not fit the description of the suspicious person a man in his 30s, possibly of Asian ethnicity.
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.
After the internal review, the Sheriff's Office scheduled a training on recognizing signs of autism and other cognitive or developmental disorders.
"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.
The boy was diagnosed with autism nine years ago, and he has attended the Con Amore school for children with cognitive or developmental disabilities for the past two and a half years, the suit stated.
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."
During the struggle, the teen had explained that he was at the library to see giraffes, so the UHP trooper came up with an idea for police officers to take the teen on a trip to the zoo. The trooper said he asked Boren, the sheriff, about arranging the trip, to "help [the boy] regain the trust of the police."
According to the trooper's report, 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 that, according to Curry, who added that Boren supported the zoo idea and didn't know where the discrepancy originated.
"There's no reason he can't be out and about," said Ayres. "So I would hope that an officer would recognize the difference between that and criminal behavior."