Tasered Man Sues Utah Trooper

Jan. 21, 2008
The man who was Tasered and posted it on YouTube has now filed a federal lawsuit against the Utah Highway Patrol trooper who shocked him.

The man who was Tasered and posted it on YouTube has now filed a federal lawsuit against the Utah Highway Patrol trooper who shocked him.

The lawsuit was filed Friday afternoon against UHP Trooper Jon Gardner, who pulled Jared Massey over for speeding on Sept. 14 on U.S. 40 near Vernal. It accuses him of excessive force and seeks an unnamed amount in damages.

"There was no need for Gardner to Taser Massey because Massey was non-violent, not threatening in any way, not fleeing and not resisting arrest," the lawsuit states.

Massey declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted by the Deseret Morning News on Friday. In past interviews, he has said he didn't want to sue but wanted the trooper's superiors to decide if the conduct was appropriate.

In a Nov. 27 letter filed with the lawsuit, Massey called for Gardner to be "justly punished" by the UHP.

"I also request that those who have participated in the cover-up of this misconduct to be disciplined," he wrote, "and that other actions be taken to assure the public that this type of abuse by a highway patrol officer will not be allowed to occur and will not be covered up if it does occur in the future."

Frustrated that authorities were taking too long to investigate his complaint, Massey had the dash-cam recording of the traffic stop posted on YouTube in November. It became an international hit -- being viewed more than 1 million times.

In a version of the infamous traffic stop described in court papers, Massey disagreed that he was speeding, but wound up with a citation anyway. He refused to sign it because he wanted to see the speed limit sign.

"Signing a citation is not required under Utah law," Massey's lawyer Robert Sykes wrote in the lawsuit. "Gardner could have left the citation with Massey with the exact same effect as having Massey sign it."

Instead, Massey was ordered to exit to the vehicle, "as if to allow Massey to show him what he meant," the lawsuit said. Gardner walked to his cruiser as Massey left his SUV.

"Gardner never advised Massey, prior to Massey's exiting the vehicle, that he was under arrest, or that Gardner intended to put Massey under arrest after he exited the vehicle," Sykes wrote. "After Massey exited the vehicle, he walked calmly toward the officer's cruiser, pointing to the sign down the road with his left hand, and stating that he did not think he had been speeding prior to the 40 mph sign."

"While Massey was pointing forward with his left hand, his right hand was at his side, with the thumb hooked inside of his right pant pocket, but the right hand outside the pocket."

The lawsuit accuses Gardner of "belligerently" demanding that Massey turn around and put his hands behind his back. On the dash-cam tape, Massey is heard asking "what's wrong with you?" As he walked back toward his SUV, Massey was Tasered. He shrieks and then falls back onto the roadway.

"This stunned Massey, who fell hard on to the highway, screaming in pain, while Trooper Gardner tauntingly said 'hurts doesn't it?'" Sykes wrote. "Massey struck his head very hard on the pavement, which was due to the fact that the Taser causes a complete loss of the ability to maintain muscle control, causing an individual to drop like a free weight."

The lawsuit accuses Gardner of chiding him, then threatening Massey's wife if she didn't get back in the SUV. After he was handcuffed and arrested, Sykes accuses Gardner of lying to another officer who arrived on scene.

"Trooper Gardner falsely told this officer that he warned Massey that he was going to be arrested and Tasered if he did not comply with his requests," he wrote.

The lawsuit does not specifically name the UHP as a defendant, but said that he was acting in his job capacity as an employee for the Utah Department of Public Safety. The UHP has repeatedly refused to make Gardner available for interviews.

UHP spokesman Jeff Nigbur told the Deseret Morning News they were not directly commenting on the lawsuit.

"We need to let it take its course through the system," he said. "We'll just wait and see what happens."

An initial DPS investigation ruled that Gardner was justified in using the Taser on Massey.

"We still stand by our initial decision after we investigated the case," Nigbur said. "And that is, he was reasonable and justified."

Gardner recently returned to duty after undergoing a verbal communications course. An internal investigation into the affair is wrapping up and the Utah Attorney General's Office is conducting its own investigation. E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]

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