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Utah AG rules use of force justified in Cottonwood Heights clash between police, protesters

Racial Injustice Utah
Posted at 9:03 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 23:20:44-04

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — After a months-long investigation, the Utah Attorney General's office has announced that officers with the Cottonwood Heights Police Department were justified and lawful in their use of force during an August 2020 protest over the death of Zane James.

“In this case, we did not observe any police officers act in any obviously excessive or punitive manner. Specific allegations against police that we are aware of, such as arrestees being needlessly slammed to the ground, are unfounded,” Matthew Thomson, an investigator with the AG’s office, said Tuesday during the presentation to the city council. “Allegations of officers beating a restrained prisoner are untrue, and the evidence of such is seen in reviewing the accuser's own phone video.”

The protest was one many Utahns remember from that summer. Nine people were ultimately charged, and several officers and protesters were hurt when the fight erupted.

READ: Family of slain teen sues Cottonwood Heights over injuries from protest

This assessment already has many who were there, like Darlene McDonald, angry over not showing what they say was their view of the march.

“We were kettled… Could not move, and they wanted to arrest people for getting in the street," McDonald said. "And for him to say that there should have been more officers and the officers showed restraint and deference to the marchers and 'protesters' as he called them? That was far from the truth!”

McDonald is a local activist and a member of the Democratic National Committee.

The family of Zane James has issued a statement in response:

“The Office of the Attorney General’s report was one-sided and incomplete. Although it purported to be comprehensive, the report cherry-picked facts favorable to the officers, and ignored a mountain of evidence that shows officers’ actions were violent and violated the Constitution. Even more frustrating was the Attorney General’s lack of genuine compassion for the purpose of the protest and the content of the speech: the tragic death of Zane James at the hand of a Cottonwood Heights officer. And although it had the appearance of including a legal analysis, it failed to cite a single United States Supreme Court case to support the notion that any citizen walking in the street exercising First Amendment rights may be summarily arrested. Ultimately, we have the facts and the law on our side and we look forward to presenting our full case to an impartial federal court and jury.”

The full video of the investigation can be seen here: