DUCHESNE, Utah — A Duchesne County family is suing the sheriff's department after an encounter with their 13-year-old son with autism.
It was back in April that the 13-year-old boy, who we’re not identifying for privacy reasons, took his hamster out for a walk in his neighborhood, something he does pretty regularly.
Someone called 911 and reported someone suspicious and when the responding officer, Sgt. Carl Reilley approached, he says the young man started to run.
That's when Sgt. Reilley turns on his body camera and begins to record the interaction. It begins with a scream from the young man who is quickly tackled to the ground and placed into handcuffs.
According to the Duchesne County Sheriff's department, this use of force is necessary because the young man started to run when Sgt. Reilley approached. You can hear Sgt. Reilley ask the young man in the video why he ran and if he has weapons on him.
Tyler Ayres, the attorney representing the family in a civil lawsuit, sees this footage differently.
“As I look at the video he seems pretty confused when the officer first starts talking to him and the next thing you know he`s thrown to the ground,” says Ayres.
We never see the young man run on camera and Ayres doesn’t believe it even happened.
“He didn`t run away from that officer and any assertion that he did I think is an outright falsehood,” says Ayres.
Shortly after the interaction begins, the officer turns off his body camera, thinking he's turning it on, but it's quickly picked up by the dash cam of a UHP officer who came to assist.
At this point, the officers begin to realize the young man is disabled. They ask the young man if he has autism and he responds yes. They put him into the patrol car with the handcuffs still on. You hear the young man in the video ask about his hamster and his spy goggles which you can see him wearing in the initial interaction before being tackled by the officer. He also remarks that he’d like to go to the zoo.
The officer takes him home to his mother and at that point takes off the handcuffs, while warning him not to run away from officers again.
His attorney says this interaction was traumatizing.
"He was terrified. He was terrified not only because he was taken out of his routine but he was violently taken out of his routine,” says Ayres.
In addition to the financial damages the family is seeking, they hope this case leads to more training for officers. The Duchesne County Sheriff agrees. He says this incident demonstrated the need for additional mandatory training, which they scheduled for July 26, before this lawsuit was filed.
In response to the lawsuit, Duchesne County Sheriff David Boren released the following statement Tuesday:
"My office conducted a full and fair review of the April 14 encounter between Sgt. Carl Reilley and Ms. Vallejo’s teenage son. The members of our After Action Review Panel found that Sgt. Reilley was reasonable in his use of force and acted appropriately during the interaction, except for the instance where he mistakenly and briefly switched off his body camera. I support the panel’s findings that the use of force was reasonable and their recommendation that Sgt. Reilley receive a verbal warning for mistakenly turning off his body camera.
"As our internal investigation showed, this situation demonstrated the need for additional training for our deputies to help them more easily identify and interact with people in our community who have mental or physical disabilities or delays. A mandatory training class on this important subject will take place Wednesday, July 26, at the sheriff’s office. The class was scheduled after the internal investigation was finished and before Ms. Vallejo’s lawsuit was filed.
"I am unable to say more about the case at this time, due to the pending litigation."