Update: NAACP weighs in on death of SLC man
The Salt Lake City branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is calling for a "full investigation" into the death of Alvin Itula, who died Friday night after four Salt Lake City police officers wrestled him to the ground, hit him with clubs and pepper spray and shocked him with a Taser gun.
Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP, said the organization will ask officials to determine whether Itula's civil rights were violated. In addition to being shocked with the Taser and pepper sprayed, Itula was allegedly held down and kicked, Williams noted.
Itula, who is Samoan, may have been treated harshly because of his race, she said.
Williams said she has spoken with Police Chief Chris Burbank about her concerns and plans to ask the U.S. Attorney's Office to review the case after the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office completes its investigation.
Patrick Thronson, a spokesman for Mayor Rocky Anderson, declined to comment on the incident because it remains under investigation.
"Any comment and any conclusions we drew at this point would be merely speculative," he said.
Meanwhile, the State Medical Examiner's Office has not yet completed its autopsy of Itula. It could be weeks before all the test results are in, an office spokesperson said.
Police approached Itula about 8:15 p.m. Friday after mistakenly believing he was wanted on an active arrest warrant. Police said Itula tried to flee and began to fight with the officers, who deployed pepper spray, clubs and Taser stun gun to subdue him.
Witnesses said Itula was hit four to five times by the Taser and that he repeatedly complained to officers that he could not breathe.
One officer responded, "Well, if you're talking, you can breathe," said Itula's wife, Penina White, who watched the incident.
Soon after, Itula stopped struggling and officers began CPR. He died a short time later at a hospital.