Summit County deputies who used Tasers in separate incidents ‘acted reasonably,’ reviews show
Deputies with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office commonly use force to gain compliance from individuals resisting arrest or not following commands, says Lt. Andrew Wright, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office.
In the last four months, deputies deployed Tasers on two people while placing them under arrest, a use of force that is rarely utilized by the Sheriff’s Office. The Park Record obtained internal reviews of the incidents through an open records request. The reviews indicated deputies used reasonable force in both situations.
In January, Jose Trinidad Patino-Perez, of Park City, was tased three times after he locked himself in a room and resisted arrest, according to a Sheriff’s Office report from the incident. It was believed he had a knife, the report stated. Charges were later dismissed against Patino-Perez. Omar Altamirano, of West Valley City, was tased in November after he attacked several people in Kimball Junction, including a deputy. He recently pleaded guilty to intoxication and assault on a peace officer or military service member.
The Sheriff’s Office conducts an internal review of any incident where the use of force is employed, Wright said. The term “use of force” can refer to a variety of methods deputies may employ when placing a suspect under arrest, such as placing hands on someone to put them in a wrist lock, deploying a taser or drawing a weapon.
The internal reviews include an audit of the officer’s account of the events that lead up to a use of force incident, as well as a review of body camera footage and witness reports.
“It is never with the intent of getting a deputy in trouble, but more with the intent of accountability,” Wright said. “Do we need to focus training on a specific area? Do we have a deputy that is displaying a consistent pattern of bad behaviors? It allows us to dive in to, not only the incident, but the behaviors of our deputies.”
Lt. Justin Hemingway, division commander with the Sheriff’s Office, performed the reviews of the November and January incidents. Hemingway found that the deputies used reasonable force to gain compliance during both arrests.
The 28-page report about the Patino-Perez incident included a detailed account of the events that transpired Jan. 3 when deputies entered his Kimball Junction apartment and eventually tased him three times. Wright said footage taken from the body cameras was also reviewed.
Deputies were summoned to the apartment because of a lease violation. While investigating that incident, deputies learned Patino-Perez had allegedly threatened his roommate with a hammer days earlier, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The report stated deputies tased Patino-Perez three times after he resisted arrest and kept reaching for his waistband. The probes from the taser only stuck to his jacket during the first deployment so deputies tased him again 10 seconds later as he continued to resist. A third deployment, five seconds later, enabled deputies to gain control of Patino-Perez’s arms and place handcuffs on him.
The Patino-Perez report was more extensive than the Altamirano one. Wright said that is because the deputies’ initial reports from the Patino-Perez arrest did not provide enough information for Hemingway to make a determination of whether the use of force was appropriate. “He (Hemingway) gathered all the deputies involved in that incident and they dissected the incident,” he said. “They talked it through and discussed why they felt it was necessary to tase him three times. After doing that, he learned more details that were not in their initial reports and asked them to provide a supplemental report to provide those details.
“We have to tell that story and we have to share that information,” he added. “We are obligated to do so. If they don’t provide that information or lie about it, there are some grave consequences.”
The report of the Altamirano arrest included a two-page summary of what happened when he was tased. Deputies were originally called to provide medical assistance after an intoxicated man, later determined to be Altamirano, was seen on the ground foaming at the mouth.
When the deputy arrived, Altamirano began punching his girlfriend, brother and his brother’s girlfriend. According to the report, the deputy removed his taser from the holster when Altamirano got up and began charging at the deputy. The deputy said he gave multiple commands for him to lay down and eventually deployed his taser after being threatened and unable to place Altamirano under arrest.
Wright said the use of force reports and reviews are intended to provide accountability for the Sheriff’s Office. “We are making sure we are tracking what we are doing and everything we are doing is justified,” he said. “We know about the issues we see across the country where officers are called for their misuse of force. It happens. We know it happens. From an administrative level, if administrators are not really paying attention and keeping that accountability and constantly training and keeping officers and deputies sharp, that is where you get into trouble.”
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