An attorney for Salt Lake City told a federal judge Thursday that a city officer could have chosen a "more tactically sound plan" when he violently took down a 73-year-old Korean war veteran while he was feeding ducks in Liberty Park, thinking the man was armed with a gun.
While a Salt Lake Police Department internal investigation deemed officer Bryce Curdie's actions "unreasonable" given the man's age and ability, city attorney Wesley Robinson said there was no evidence that Curdie intentionally set out to violate the veteran's civil rights.
In a federal suit he has filed against the Salt Lake City Police Department and the officer who took him down, Miles Lund claims he suffered permanent injury from the Nov. 25, 2006, incident at Liberty Park.
Lund says he was feeding the ducks at the park while a couple had their dog off-leash. Upset that their dog was chasing away the ducks he was feeding, Lund said he got into an argument with the dog's owners. Lund said he reached into his jacket to show the man a copy of the park's rules that all dogs should be on leash at all times, Lund said the man ran off yelling "he has a gun" and "he's going to shoot me."
Lund says he kind of laughed at the man's reaction until Curdie showed up with a gun pointed at him. Curdie told Lund to raise his hands above his head or he and officers arriving as backup would "shoot you dead."
Because of a disabled right arm, Lund says he was not able to comply with the demand. He said he tried to explain why but was only shouted commands to put his hands up and get on his knees. After he didn't comply, Curdie rushed Lund and tackled him, grabbing him around the neck while two other officers grabbed his legs.
According to Lund's suit, he fell, striking the ground with his head and breaking his glasses. The fall cut his scalp. After being cuffed, Lund says he was dragged across concrete to a park bench where his head was struck again. He also claims officers kicked him in the ribs while he was on the ground.
Lund suffered subcranial bleeding, requiring surgery to removed a blood clot. Lund's attorney, Clark Newhall, said Lund now has to use a wheelchair because of his injuries.
In federal court Thursday, Newhall asked U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins for a ruling against Curdie for a civil rights violation and against Salt Lake City for negligence.
Newhall argued that Curdie's own employer, the city, found his actions unreasonable and that the court should rule in his client's favor. An internal-affairs report issued in 2007 reprimanded Curdie and found his actions were "unreasonable."
Robinson said Curdie was acting on information provided through dispatch by the dog owner that Lund was armed with a "black handgun."
Sure, Lund tried to explain why he could not comply with the officer's commands but "people lie to the police all the time," Robinson said, adding case law supports that an officer has a right to use force during an arrest.Jenkins denied Lund's motion, saying he has not yet proven that the officer intentionally violated his rights. The case will continue on to trial. Robinson said the city plans to also file a motion asking the court to rule in its favor, arguing the officer is protected through governmental immunity.
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