Man sues Salt Lake City, alleging police illegally detained him in hot car following summer protest

Salt Lake City is being sued by a man who says police made him sit in a hot car for 15 minutes this summer in part because he is friends with people who were arrested during summer police brutality protests.

According to a complaint filed in federal court, Matthew Monahan’s friend was charged with vandalizing the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office building during a July 9 protest. Police seized the friend’s van as evidence.

Protesters rallied on July 9 in response to District Attorney Sim Gill’s decision to not charge Salt Lake City police officers for fatally shooting 34 rounds at 22-year-old Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal in May.

On July 21, police told Monahan’s friend he could pick up the van at the Salt Lake City Police Department’s property release building. Monahan gave him a ride to the department. Two other friends came with them.

The lawsuit claims that while they were waiting for the van to be released, Officer Devon Meyer asked to talk to Monahan. Monahan refused, saying he doesn’t “talk to police.” Meyer told Monahan he was being detained and told him to put his hands behind his back. The lawsuit says Meyer would not let Monahan put on his face mask before placing him in handcuffs, patting him down and going through his wallet.

Meyer put Monahan in the back of a police car and made him wait there for about 15 minutes in the 95-degree weather, according to the complaint. After the first few minutes Meyer rolled down the backseat windows but only by an inch, according to the complaint. The lawsuit says the “excessive temperature” in the backseat of the car posed a safety risk to Monahan.

When officers released Monahan they said they had detained him to identify him. They told him that they were investigating events that happened on May 30, according to the lawsuit.

A May 30 protest following the death of George Floyd escalated in Salt Lake City when people set two cars on fire and threw rocks at cars and business windows. The lawsuit says Monahan protested peacefully on May 30 and didn’t engage in vandalism. It says the officers lacked reasonable suspicion and facts to detain him.

“Instead, because (Monahan) was a recent protestor and was associating with protestors who had been charged, the officers detained and arrested him," reads the complaint.

Detective Michael Ruff of the Salt Lake City Police Department said in a statement that Monahan was “detained to identify him as a suspect in the assault of a West Valley City Police Department officer on July 9th.” When The Salt Lake Tribune asked if Monahan is still a suspect in the assault, Ruff said he didn’t know. Ruff declined to comment on the lawsuit or the allegations that Monahan was kept in a hot police car.

Meyer and several other officers are named as defendants in the lawsuit along with the city and police department.

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