The Utah Highway Patrol trooper whose use of a Taser on an uncooperative motorist led to a $40,000 settlement of a civil rights lawsuit Monday has received a letter of counsel for his conduct.
Trooper Jon Gardner was counseled for failing to communicate adequately with motorist Jared Massey during a Sept. 14 traffic stop near Vernal that ended with Massey writhing in pain on the side of U.S. 40 after the trooper stunned him twice with a Taser. The letter of counsel also addressed Gardner's failure to follow UHP protocol when he removed the Taser probes from Massey's back.
UHP Sgt. Jeff Nigbur, who discussed the disciplinary action in a telephone interview with the Deseret Morning News, said Gardner did not use latex gloves to remove the probes or clean the wounds with alcohol wipes, as required by department policy.
Massey was pulled over on U.S. 40 after Gardner observed him speeding. During a confrontational traffic stop, Massey refused to sign a speeding ticket and was ordered out of his sport utility vehicle.
Massey has said that he believed Gardner was going to allow him to point out a nearby speed limit sign that the father of two had passed shortly before being stopped. Instead, Gardner ordered Massey to place his hands behind his back.
When Massey didn't immediately comply, Gardner pulled his Taser and repeated the command three more times. The trooper fired the weapon as Massey walked back toward his SUV with his part of his right hand in his pants pocket. Massey, screaming and immobilized by the Taser's 50,000 volts, fell backward onto the shoulder of the road.
The stop gained international attention after Massey obtained a copy of the video captured by Gardner's dash-mounted camera and posted it on YouTube. To date, the video has been viewed more than 1.7 million times.
Nigbur said the Utah Department of Public Safety's full internal affairs investigation, which led to Gardner receiving the letter of counsel, confirmed the agency's preliminary findings that the trooper's use of force was justified. The Tooele County Attorney's Office reviewed the findings of a separate investigation by the Utah Attorney General's Office and also determined that Gardner's use of force did not violate state law.
A letter of counsel is not the same as a letter of reprimand, Nigbur said. It will remain in Gardner's file while he works in the UHP's Section 5 the section that covers Duchesne, Uintah and Daggett counties but will not follow him if he transfers to another section.
Gardner was placed on administrative leave in September, shortly after Massey posted video of the traffic stop on YouTube. The UHP said the leave was meant to protect the trooper after numerous anonymous death threats were made against him on the Internet.
Gardner was required to undergo remedial communications training before returning to duty.
Nigbur said the UHP is now reviewing how the Section 5 office handled Massey's verbal complaint no formal written complaint was ever filed by Massey to determine if there were problems with the process.
"We're going to look at the procedure to see if anything needs to be improved," Nigbur said.
Massey said Tuesday that the need for legal action on his part could have been avoided entirely if the Section 5 office had actively investigated his complaint when he made it.
"I wish that they would have taken care of it up front and none of this would have happened," he said. "No one ever would have saw a YouTube video. That's true, and I've told them that."Massey, who pleaded guilty to speeding in January, said a portion of the money he'll receive from the state to drop his civil rights claim against Gardner will go to charity.
E-mail: [email protected]