SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — An elderly Ogden couple is suing two city police officers and the department for excessive force after they say officers pulled a 78-year-old man to the ground face first last November, leaving him bloodied and with lasting injuries to his shoulder.
Attorneys for Rand and Vera Briem filed the lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court, alleging that police violated their constitutional rights when officers subjected Rand Briem to an improper forceful takedown without cause.
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Speaking at a news conference Thursday, attorney Robert Sykes said that Rand Briem did nothing to provoke a response from officers that required him to be slammed on the driveway of his own property.
“No force is appropriate if no force is needed,” Sykes said. “There was no force needed that night.”
The Ogden Police Department responded to the lawsuit Thursday, saying that it’s confident the court will find the officers use of force justified, noting that the department’s internal review had already done so.
What the lawsuit says
According to the lawsuit against Ogden police, the two officers responded to the Briem house on Nov. 29, 2022, after someone in the neighborhood complained about squatters in the residence, claiming the home had been foreclosed.
However, the Health Department had posted a non-occupancy sign for the home’s basement, the lawsuit said, adding that the couple had been living in the home’s detached garage.
The two officers encountered the Briems as they were pulling out of their driveway, heading to lock up the neighborhood church meetinghouse. Body camera video obtained by the Briems and shared with ABC4 shows the officers stopping the couple, who appear visibly confused and upset as to why officers are there.
“Is this your residence?” one of the officers asks.
“Yeah, that’s my house, that’s my garage,” Rand Briem responds, the video shows. “What are you doing?”
After a dispute about the non-occupancy sign, one of the officers tells Rand Briem that he is detaining him and requests to see his license. The 78-year-old responds saying he’ll show it to the police, but not give it to them.
While Briem shows his license to one of the officers, the officer takes it. Briem starts yelling and tries to grab his license back, the video shows. A noisy struggle ensues before police get the man on the ground, with his hands behind his back and his face in the snow.
When the officers lift up the 78-year-old, blood marks the snow and covers his face, the body camera footage shows. The officers keep Briem handcuffed for roughly a half hour before issuing him a citation.
According to the police statement, Briem is facing a charge of interfering with an arresting officer, a case that is still pending in court.
Sykes, the couple’s attorney, said that while Rand Briem was rude to the officers, that doesn’t justify the use of force.
“There’s no question on that at all,” he said. “I think the escalation occurred when the officers grabbed the license out of his hand. The officers should have been trained in de-escalation.”
At the news conference Thursday, Rand Briem said that police threw him down face-first, adding that he had trouble breathing as the officers were holding him to the ground.
“I felt like it was the same thing that they did to George Floyd,” he said.
Along with the wounds to his face, Briem also suffered a torn rotator cuff in one of his shoulders, an injury from which he still suffers, the lawsuit says. Additionally, a exhibit in the lawsuit showed Briem with extensive bruising along his right arm, shoulder and torso.
The lawsuit is seeking damages to be determined by a jury. The document also notes that Vera Briem, who was 74 at the time of the incident, suffered severe stress and emotional damage. In the body camera video, she can be heard screaming through much of the encounter.
“For someone of their age, this is a horrible thing to have gone through,” said Sykes, their attorney. “I think that entitles them to some reasonable compensation.”
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