Salt Lake City police officers tackled a man, shocked him with a Taser and held him at gunpoint in December 2019 after accusing him of jaywalking, body camera footage released Wednesday shows.
Though the arrest unfolded more than three years ago, police announced Wednesday that a community member last month made a “renewed request” for body camera footage of the confrontation. Upon review of the footage, the Salt Lake City Police Department placed six “sworn employees” involved with the arrest on paid administrative leave and initiated an internal investigation, officials said.
It’s unclear whether police reviewed the footage after the 2019 arrest. If they had, it’s unclear why an internal investigation was apparently not initiated until after the community member’s February request for the footage.
“The Salt Lake City Police Department acknowledges this case should have been reviewed more in 2019,” officials said in a news release Wednesday. “The department has taken steps to immediately rectify and prevent future occurrences by enacting more rigorous standards and expectations when it comes to these matters.”
Police on Wednesday did not identify the community member who requested the footage, which depicted the Dec. 15, 2019, arrest of Tarik Mason, who was 37 at the time.
The initial stop
Mason was initially stopped near 900 South and 400 East after an officer witnessed him jaywalking across a street while holding a bike frame, police said.
The footage released Wednesday shows that officer getting out of his patrol car, approaching Mason and asking him why he did not wait for a crosswalk signal before crossing the street.
Mason, who an officer in the body camera footage later described as Black, repeatedly apologizes to the officer.
“I’m sorry, I thought I did something, like, wrong — it’s just my buddy gave me this bicycle frame,” Mason says in the footage. “I thought that’s why you was rolling up on me.”
The officer replied that even though there were no cars coming, Mason needed to wait for the crosswalk light to change, the footage shows. He then asked Mason for a driver license or any other identification, which Mason said he did not have, though Mason said he had been issued a Colorado ID.
The officer then asked if Mason had dealt with the police before, so that the officer could “look [him] up in the system.” Mason replied that he had.
When the officer then asked if Mason had any warrants, Mason said that he shouldn’t, the footage shows. He gave his name and birthdate to the officer, apologizing again.
“Please sir, don’t bother me man,” Mason said as the officer turns back toward his patrol car.
“I’m just gonna make sure you don’t have any warrants,” the officer replied, telling Mason to “chill for just one minute.”
Mason then turns to continue walking down the sidewalk, the footage shows, and the officer tells him to remain where he is. Mason continues walking away, and the officer repeatedly tells him to stop.
“I just jaywalked, that’s all,” Mason says, walking backward while facing the officer. The officer then calls for backup, and Mason starts running away down the sidewalk.
The officer runs after Mason, who drops the bike frame. Mason then begins running across 400 East down East Hoover Place, as the officer yells “Police, stop!”
The chase continued down to 500 East, and into an alley between 500 East and South Park Street before Mason stops, appearing out of breath and hunched over.
“Stop! Get on the ground,” the officer says, withdrawing his weapon and pointing it at Mason, the footage shows. Mason repeatedly refuses, still hunched over, then continues to walk away.
Once Mason and the officer chasing him reach the end of the alley, near 521 E. 900 South, additional officers approach from the opposite side, surrounding Mason and yelling at him to get on the ground.
One officer then tackles Mason to the ground, and Mason screams as four officers attempt to put him in handcuffs, the footage shows. One officer knees Mason in the face as the others hold him down and find his wrists.
“Give me your hands!” an officer yells. In the footage, it appears that while Mason is on his stomach, one of his hands is behind him and the other is tucked in front of him; Mason repeatedly yells that he can’t get his other hand out as five officers attempt to handcuff him.
The moment Mason’s arm is freed, an officer deploys a taser to his legs, the footage shows.
Officers then search Mason as he remains on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back. Once they sit him up, he says “You beat the hell out of me.”
Mason groans in pain as police ask for his name; he at first replies that he does not know it, then says “John Doe” before he tells them he already told the initial officer his name, the footage shows.
The officers then call for medical attention because Mason suffered a facial laceration while police were handcuffing him, according to the footage.
The internal investigation
After his arrest, Mason was charged with one felony count of possession or use of a controlled substance with priors, three misdemeanors and one infraction. Court documents state Mason had two other criminal cases pending at the time of his arrest, and that he had failed to appear for a sentencing hearing in a third case.
Mason later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of possession or use of a controlled substance; court documents state that police said they found methamphetamine on him, though that was not clearly depicted in the body camera footage released Wednesday. The other charges were dismissed with prejudice.
None of the six employees whom Salt Lake City police placed on leave last month remain on leave, police said Wednesday. Their names and ranks were not immediately released, pending the ongoing internal investigation.
After police reviewed the body camera video in February, the department requested an outside agency to evaluate the case, police said Wednesday. The Salt Lake County district attorney’s office has since declined to prosecute any officers involved in the arrest, police said in a news release.
In a statement Wednesday, Salt Lake City police Chief Mike Brown said the department initiated the ongoing internal review “to gather additional information regarding this case,” which he said was “consistent with our practices.”
“The officers involved in this case are important members of our police department and have demonstrated a combined 46 years of service to Salt Lake City,” his statement continued. “I look forward to the opportunity to review the internal investigative findings in this matter. I trust the integrity of this process.”