A mentally ill man who gashed a police officer’s ear with a lawn ornament, did so after two officers used “excessive force” while trying to arrest him, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Monday.
Leon Dane Hall, 25, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Monday against the city and the police officers who arrested him.
Two Salt Lake City police officers used a baton and a stun gun while trying to arrest then-23-year-old Hall. After being “violently” kneed and hit with a baton, Hall cut an officer’s head with a wrought-iron lawn ornament, described as a metal flower ornament in the lawsuit.
In December, he entered guilty pleas in 3rd District Court to two counts of assault against a police officer, both third-degree felonies. At his sentencing hearing on Feb. 16, Hall, now 25, told 3rd District Judge Royal Hansen that he was “sorry for hitting the officer. I was really scared.” Hall was sentenced to 36 months probation.
Hansen suspended a potential sentence of up to five years in prison for each felony.
Around 11 p.m. on Feb. 2, 2016, Hall was looking for his friend at the Pauline Apartments, at 125 S. 300 East, according to the lawsuit. Someone reported a “suspicious male” in the area, and two police officers showed up.
The officers asked Hall for his identification. Hall asked for a hug and said he didn’t need to give his ID because everyone in the city knew him, the lawsuit states.
One of the officers asked if Hall was “high on something.”
“I wish,” Hall responded, according to the suit.
Hall gave his name; one of the officers grabbed him by the wrist, according to the suit, and Hall repeated: “Stop touching me,” and, “You need to stop touching me.”
One of the officers hit Hall repeatedly with his baton, and the other kneed Hall “violently” in the legs, the lawsuit states.
“Scared and reacting to the unnecessary physical violence against him,” Hall swung a metal flower ornament around, gashing one officers’ head and slicing his ear, which required surgery to reattach.
An officer used his stun gun on Hall, at least three times, and pinned him to the ground.
During the altercation, Hall screamed, “I’m dying,” “help,” and “he’s trying to kill me.”
“When an ambulance arrived, Mr. Hall had one Taser probe still stuck in the crotch of his sweat pants,” the lawsuit states.
He suffered scrapes to his body face and hand, as well as a bloodied mouth.
The lawsuit alleges that the officers inflicted their own punishment against him for his failure to abide by their commands.
One of the officers didn’t have his body camera on during the altercation. The other had, and the footage was reviewed by an internal departmental investigation. The result of that investigation was not immediately available.
Hall had been seriously injured in a violent attack outside a Salt Lake City dance club in 2011. According to the lawsuit, Hall told police he was assaulted for being gay, and as a result suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.
And, the lawsuit continues, Hall also has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and attention hyperactivity disorder, and he has reported he suffers from anxiety.
The officers hadn’t received adequate training and “assumed, erroneously, that Mr. Hall’s behavior could be explained only if he were under the influence of a controlled substance, when, in fact, he suffers from a mental illness,” the lawsuit alleges.