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Family mourning baby’s death claims West Valley officers abused family

Posted at 10:55 AM, Mar 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-16 19:53:29-04

WEST VALLEY CITY - A West Valley City family is considering a lawsuit after they say two West Valley City police officers entered their home illegally and assaulted them.

On February 24, Marissa Estrada and her husband, Tevin Evans, rushed their two-month-old son, Cameron to the hospital where he unexpectedly died from RSV.

"I’ll never get to hear him laugh. I saw him smile one time," Estrada said.

A few hours later, per protocol, West Valley City Police showed up to investigate an unintended death, but the grieving grandfather slammed the door in the officer's face.

Surveillance video shows Officer Ben Christensen kick open the door and enter the home. Evans' mother, Traci Eggett, was there and witnessed the confrontation.

"I can’t even understand why they would’ve kicked the door in in the first place or why they were upset like that unless it was an ego thing because the door was shut in their face," Eggett said.

After kicking in the door, Officer Christensen allegedly pepper-sprayed the grandfather and started walking up the stairs to put him in handcuffs. He then started walking towards Evans and the two end up wrestling down the stairs. Cell phone video captured the heated exchange.

West Valley City Police say Evans punched Officer Christensen in the face and gave him a concussion. Evans was arrested and spent the night in jail.

"The worst night of my entire life," Evans said. "Dealing with my son’s death, dealing with being in jail alone for the first time ever."

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill is still deciding whether to file formal charges against Evans.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, West Valley City Police Chief, Colleen Jacobs, said the department is investigating the situation.

"While this administrative investigation is underway the officer’s duties have been modified and he will not interact with the public while this case is under review."

The department is gathering statements and evidence and will present it to the professional standards review board which is made up of citizens.

Chief Jacobs said she will gain a full understanding of this incident and find out how it happened and why.

"I am committing to do what is right," Jacobs said.  "We review our work to make sure we are doing our jobs to the best of our abilities, and when someone doesn't measure up, we hold each other accountable."

The lawsuit has been put on hold after the family's attorney, Robert Sykes, got a call from the West Valley City Attorney saying they want to make things right. A mediation with the family and attorneys has been set for next week.

"If they’ve been wronged, we’ll do what we can to make it right," Jacobs said.

The Chief said she sets a very high bar for her department, and that on a daily basis, the men and women of her police force meet or exceed those standards.

"I have extremely high expectations of my officers," Jacobs said.  "I expect the highest levels of professionalism in their conduct and I will not accept less."

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