WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — It’s been over a year since a 21-year-old Utah man was run over by a car after being tased by West Valley City Police.
Atonio “OJ” Sivatia, now 22, suffered a life-changing traumatic brain injury. Now, his family is suing the city and its police officers over the events that happened after midnight on Dec. 6, 2020.
“I don’t get hugs. He used to carry me, every time I got hugs from him,” said Nonnie Masaniai Pea, Sivatia’s mother. “Now, he’s not the same. He’s not the same OJ. He’s not.”
Deputy reports show West Valley City police responded to a mentally violent individual near 4000 South and Redwood Road.
According to one officer’s report, someone reported seeing a man “bang on his vehicle window with his hands and broke the window.” Then that man “started going to other people's vehicle's and started banging on their windows as well.”
One officer followed Sivatia to Redwood Road, and “advised over the radio that the male was attempting to be hit by vehicles in the road and a taser was deployed.”
Body-cam footage shows Sivatia lying down on his back in the inside lane, with his arms spread out.
“Making Atonio lie down with his head away from the traffic so that he couldn’t see it coming was a danger that was created by the police,” said Robert Sykes, Sivatia’s attorney.
A minute and a half later, a car comes down that lane and runs over Sivatia and hits the officer.
“He had a significant brain injury to the point where he can’t talk. He can’t walk,” said Sykes.
The attorney said the use of the taser and excessive force was not necessary and does not align with West Valley City Police policy. He wrote “no effort was made to move Atonio just a few feet to safety” or to block the lane “where Atonio lay unaware of his peril.”
“If [the officer] turned his car, that car wouldn’t have hit my son,” said Sivatia’s mother. “It would have never happened. If he had just turned his car instead of going straight.”
FOX 13 News reached out to the West Valley City Police Department for a statement. This was their response:
“We are aware of a lawsuit filed in this case and will begin the process of reviewing it. The case referenced in the lawsuit is under investigation by Protocol Team 1, which is led by the Salt Lake City Police Department. In addition, this case, as is standard for all uses of force in our department, will undergo an internal review. We don’t draw any conclusion about the case until all the facts are known and the investigation is complete.”