Ogden police beating of man on ground was ‘severe abuse of police power,’ lawsuit alleges

“They just beat him because he was there,” the man’s mother said.

(Kolbie Peterson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Marsha Quintana speaks about her son Shawn Sims at the law office of Robert Sykes, pictured right, in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 8, 2023. Sims' family filed a federal lawsuit Monday alleging that Ogden officers abused their power when they repeatedly punched Sims during his April 22, 2023, arrest.

The family of a 30-year-old man who was beaten by Ogden police officers during his April 22 arrest sued the law enforcement agency in federal court Monday, alleging that the beating was “a severe abuse of police power.”

“They beat him unnecessarily,” Shawn Sims’ mother, Marsha Quintana, said in her attorney’s Salt Lake City law office Monday during a news conference announcing the lawsuit. “He wasn’t fighting them, he wasn’t violent, he didn’t threaten them. They just beat him because he was there.”

According to the lawsuit, which was filed Monday morning, Sims’ constitutional rights were violated. “The four OPD officers presented overwhelming force such that Sims would not have been able to flee or otherwise threaten them,” the lawsuit states.

“As no one else was in the immediate vicinity, there was no immediate risk to the four officers or anyone else, and thus there was no need to use force at all,” it contends.

Only one of the four officers involved in the arrest was identified in the complaint as of Monday: Zachary Young. The three others were not immediately named but were listed as defendants.

The Ogden Police Department on Monday declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The allegations

(Screenshot from police body camera footage) Shawn Sims is repeatedly punched by Ogden police officers on Saturday, April 22, 2023.

The Ogden beating happened after police said officers spotted Sims walking in traffic near 17th Street and Washington Boulevard at around 5:40 p.m. on April 22.

When Sims saw the officers stop, he reached into his waistband, then pointed his finger at officers from underneath his shirt, acting like he had a gun, police have said.

Officers commanded him to stop, but Sims ran away with his hand in his waistband, police said. Soon after, an officer took him down to the ground, where police said Sims rolled onto his stomach and continued to ignore commands about removing his hands from his waistband.

As four officers tried to force Sims to show them his hands, two of the officers punched him in the head, shoulder and back multiple times, police said. Officers also used a Taser on Sims twice — once in his back, and once in his side.

Ogden police Chief Eric Young said at a news conference in April that the officers were justified in their use of force against Sims because he had acted like he had a gun. But the lawsuit filed Monday states that the officers’ actions were “willful, malicious and reckless.”

In the complaint, Sims’ family contends that Sims had been walking on the shoulder of Washington Boulevard, and didn’t enter the roadway until officers pulled up behind him.

They also argue that Sims had his hand in his waistband before the beating because he was holding up his pants, and that when Sims turned to look at officers, he made no verbal threats and didn’t attack them.

In body camera footage, Sims can be seen running away after a patrol car pulls over and officers get out and chase him. But the lawsuit states that “once taken to the ground, Sims was fully detained and not fleeing, fighting or resisting.”

“Sims was afraid that if he resisted or moved, the officers would shoot him,” the lawsuit states. “Because of his fears about the officers, Sims was forced to simply take the brutal force of the punches without saying anything or resisting.”

Beating wasn’t justified, lawsuit alleges

After the beating, when officers got Sims to his feet and sat him on the edge of a sidewalk, one of the officers can be heard in body camera video saying, “Why are you reaching like you got a gun, dude? Are you trying to make me do something stupid to you?”

During an April news conference about the beating, police Chief Eric Young played audio from a call between Sims and his mother after he was arrested, in which Sims tells her, “I did the stupid-a-- finger gun thing again, honestly, I think.”

When asked about that statement on Monday, Quintana said she hadn’t heard him say that. Attorney Robert Sykes, who is representing Sims, said that “even if it’s true that Shawn said he had a gun, even if it’s true, when they have his hands and there’s four men on him, it doesn’t justify the savage beating.”

Following his arrest, while Sims was in a holding cell at the Weber County jail, an officer asked him why he would pretend he had a gun. Sims replied that “he’s had a lot of problems with his mind,” Eric Young quoted him as saying, adding that Sims was “hoping [the Ogden Police Department] would’ve shot [him].”

The lawsuit denies that Sims said such a statement, as does Quintana.

Sims suffered facial fractures and bleeding behind one eye as he was repeatedly punched by police, Eric Young said in April.

Quintana shared a more detailed account of Sims’ injuries on a GoFundMe campaign she set up after the beating, stating that he suffered a “broken nose, fractured jaw, broken orbital sockets and complete loss of vision in one of his eyes.” The lawsuit states that Sims also suffered a concussion.

On Monday, Quintana said that her son’s sight was slowly returning, and that the bruising and swelling was going down, but she suspects he has neurological issues due to the beating.

Sims remains jailed on suspicion of prohibited activities by a pedestrian using the roadway; failure to stop at the command of law enforcement; intoxication; possession of a controlled substance; interfering with an arresting officer; and violation of probation or parole, jail records show.

As of Monday afternoon, he had not been formally charged with a crime.