A Utah soccer coach says he was in a coma for days after a Provo police officer roughed him up while kicking his team off a city field, which the coach says he reserved for the soccer league he started for low-income children.
Provo police say the officer did not violate any department policies and that the coach had not properly reserved the field.
In a notice filed this month with Provo, attorneys for Nery Rodriguez wrote that he was refereeing a soccer game Sept. 21 on a city field he had reserved earlier that year, when a woman “began shouting at him to get off of her field.” When Rodriguez refused, she called police, saying she had the field reserved for a different group, said Michael Teter, an attorney for Rodriguez.
An officer arrived and ordered Rodriguez off the field, according to the notice.
"Nery tried to explain that he had a contract to use the field, but the officer refused to consider any of that," the notice states. "Videos of the interaction demonstrate how unwilling the officer was to listen to anything Nery said."
The officer then arrested Rodriguez and would not answer when asked for a reason, the notice states. He later said he was arresting Rodriguez for disorderly conduct.
The notice alleges the officer pushed Rodriguez, who was handcuffed, off the field and was taunting him.
"When they reached the parking lot’s asphalt, the officer shoved Nery and tripped him," the notice states. "With his hands cuffed behind his back, Nery had no way to brace himself for the fall. His head hit the ground and whipped backwards violently."
Rodriguez eventually lost consciousness as bystanders urged the officer to help him, according to the notice. But the officer "smirked" and ordered the bystanders to leave, the notice states. The officer called for police backup, but an ambulance didn't arrive until Rodriguez had been unconscious for 30 minutes, the notice claims.
Rodriguez was hospitalized for more than a week, the notice states; he has suffered from vertigo since then and is relearning to walk.
Internal affairs officers investigated the arrest and reviewed video from bystanders as well as body camera footage, Sgt. Nisha King said. The officer "was exonerated of any wrongdoing,” she said.
King also said Rodriguez's application to reserve the field was incomplete, while the other group "actually had the correct contract to be on the field."
Rodriguez followed the same procedure he had in previous years, Teter said — "but in some ways, it's beside the point," he added
“The fact that now they’re saying the contact is invalid — they never even asked to see the contract at the time,” Teter said. “The officer did not speak to Nery, did not ask to see the contract, did no investigation whatsoever, which itself is improper. This is a guy putting together this league for people who simply could not afford to do the other private Provo leagues. He goes to referee a game that day and he can’t walk after that.”