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Family of slain teen sues Cottonwood Heights over injuries from protest

Aaron James Zane James protest
Posted at 10:42 AM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 13:06:13-04

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — The parents of a 19-year-old shot by a Cottonwood Heights police officer in 2018 are now suing the city, saying they were unjustly attacked by officers during a protest over his death last year.

Cottonwood Heights police officers fatally shot Zane James after he allegedly robbing two grocery stores.

Last August, nine people, including Zane's father, Aaron, were arrested during the peaceful protest. Video footage from the protest shows police officers pepper spraying and tackling protesters after they tried to clear the street.

READ: Three charged in connection with Cottonwood Heights protest

The lawsuit alleges that Gabe Percoaro, Aaron James' son, was tackled from behind by a police officer, and because "he was unaware that the person who assaulted him was a police officer," and did not “submit," was subsequently struck with a taser and left with a concussion, broken nose, deep abrasions, damage to his esophagus and post traumatic stress.

Racial Injustice Utah
A protester is led away by Cottonwood Heights police officers during a march Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. The protest was a "March for Justice" focused largely around Zane James, who was fatally shot by police in Cottonwood Heights in 2018. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Pecoraro says that after his arrest, Police Chief Bobby Russo told him his family was “trash” and blamed him for his brother’s death. The lawsuit also alleges that when Aaron James sought an explanation from police officers about the treatment of his son, he was also hit with a Taser and beaten with a baton.

READ: Both sides respond after protesters, police clash

No charges were filed against James, but Pecoraro was charged with misdemeanors for allegedly attacking an officer and interfering with an arrest.

Russo told The Salt Lake Tribune last year that “hundreds” of people were blocking the road during the protest. He called the protesters “rioters” and said some were there to “create havoc.”

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah.