Special Note: Click HERE for all posts on Jared Massey. The most current post will appear first.
The decision by 28-year old telephone company employee Jared Massey to post a video of himself being shot with a Taser by a Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) trooper on the Internet was motivated by his desire to have them act more expeditiously on his 2-month-old request to investigate the incident. Full story published in the Deseret Morning News; additional story posted by the Salt Lake Tribune.
"There's been no response, no action, no notifying us 'Hey, we're looking at this,"' Massey said. "To us it seems like they're stonewalling it, trying to brush it under the rug so that nothing would happen. That's why we decided to take it to YouTube," Massey further explained about his decision to post the edited 10-minute video clip captured by UHP trooper John Gardner's dashboard camera that documented Massey's arrest on the Internet. "We thought it was kind of our civic duty to do this."
Massey said he and his wife were initially told by the secretary at the Vernal UHP office that they couldn't file a complaint against Gardner but eventually met with the trooper's supervisor just days after the incident. The couple has not yet returned the formal complaint form they were given. The Masseys, with the help of an attorney, also made a formal request for a copy of the video from Gardner's car, an audio copy of the trooper's radio traffic with dispatchers, and copies of any paperwork Gardner completed to document the incident.
So far, the couple said they have only received the video — which they had to have unscrambled by one of his co-workers to view — and the dispatch tape. The couple got a copy of Gardner's probable cause statement, which makes no mention of his use of a Taser, when they went to court. They said they have yet to receive the trooper's incident report. "They still haven't given us everything we've requested," Massey said.
In response, UHP spokesman Cameron Roden said Gardner did document his use of the Taser in his incident report. "It's definitely in the report," Roden said. "In fact we have a separate Taser deployment form which is part of our form and he has filled it out." Roden added that the Masseys should have received a copy "as part of discovery." The highway patrol will not release the trooper's report on the incident to the public or the media though until an internal investigation is completed.
Massey was pulled over September 14th by Gardner on U.S. Hwy 40 outside Vernal on suspicion of speeding in a construction zone. During the emotionally charged encounter, Massey can be heard refusing to sign the speeding citation and arguing with Gardner about whether he was actually speeding. Here's the YouTube video:
"If you were able to look in his eyes and feel the body language, we thought, 'Geez, this guy is really mad over a speeding ticket,'" Massey said on Wednesday. After Massey's repeated refusals to sign the citation unless he was allowed to show Gardner a nearby speed limit sign, the trooper ordered him out of his SUV. "I get out of the car thinking he's going to actually let me see the signs. That was the impression I had," Massey continued. "I'm walking back pointing at those signs and out of the corner of my eye I see him pointing a gun at me."
Gardner hadn't pulled his gun but had pulled his Taser, which he fired into Massey's back after Massey failed to comply with three additional commands to "turn around." On the video, Massey responds to the 50,000-volt shock by stiffening up and falling backward, cutting his head open on the highway. "I'm laying on the ground thinking I'm dying," Massey said. "I can't put into words how horrifying that is."
Gardner gave Massey a second shock with the Taser when he did not immediately turn onto his stomach. He also can be heard on an unedited version of the video, provided to the Deseret Morning News by Massey, making an apparent threat to use the weapon again after Massey makes repeated demands that Gardner read him his Miranda rights. [Ed. Note: Giving Massey a second shock without giving him an opportunity to comply with the cop's demands is it - that justifies Gardner's termination from UHP.]
"Do you want another hit with this," the trooper asks.
"No. I want you to read me my rights," Massey replies.
"I want you to follow my instructions and do as you're told," Gardner says.
Massey and his wife are still deciding whether they'll file a lawsuit against Gardner and the highway patrol. "We're looking at options — how can we solve this problem, how can we protect this from happening to someone else again — if it takes a lawsuit then I guess it does," he said. "We haven't made up our minds."
Massey is scheduled to stand trial for the speeding ticket on January 14th in Uintah County Justice Court.
Roden said the public response to the video has been overwhelming. "We're not actually taking a number, but we've received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls," he said.
Gardner remains on duty, and Roden said he is not aware of any past use of force complaints against the 14-year UHP veteran. The UHP's internal investigation has been expedited since the posting to the dash cam video on YouTube and is expected to be completed early next week.
Roden earlier explained procedures on traffic tickets. When drivers sign traffic tickets, they are not necessarily admitting guilt but merely acknowledging they will show up at court or to pay the ticket, Roden said. In the event that a motorist refuses to sign, a trooper can simply write "refuses to sign" on the citation, which is then given to the driver, or they can chose to arrest the motorist.
Roden also explained that troopers that carry Tasers must take a four-hour certification course outlining how and when to use the devices, according to UHP's nine-page policy. They are taught to use them in three circumstances:
- When a person is a threat to themselves, an officer or another person.
- In cases where the physical use of force would endanger the person or someone else.
- When other means of lesser or equal force by the officer has been ineffective and a threat still exists.
Roden also explained that UHP requires an officer file a report any time a Taser is used, noting, among other things, how many warnings the subject was given and where the electric probes hit on a person's body. Officials are then required to get the person arrested checked by medics. Massey was later taken to Uintah Basin Medical Center in Roosevelt, Roden said.
In a related story posted on KSL Channel 5, Rep. Neil Hansen, D-Ogden, claims that too many Utah municipalities use traffic tickets as a cash cow and has drafted legislation to outlaw ticket quotas. Ironically, his primary opposition is the police chief of his own town -- who is also a member of the Senate. Sen. Jon Greiner, R-Ogden, says Hansen doesn't have any proof of a quota system in Utah. He said Hansen is "maligning" his department, and Hansen's bill could keep police officers from issuing any tickets.
Public reaction to this story has been explosive. A previous KSL story attracted hundreds of comments, leaning in favor of Massey. Many people want to see the UHP officer fired.
Discussion forums have flared up as well. Two separate discussion threads were opened up on the Vanguard News Network Forum, HERE and HERE. Another discussion thread has opened up on The Phora.
Commentary: Initially, I was advocating some leniency for the cop, on the basis that it might have been a rookie mistake or that he might have just had a "bad hair day". However, the fact that he has 14 years experience on the force changes things. This cannot be written off as a rookie mistake or youthful exuberance. A veteran cop should know better.
Consequently, termination from the UHP is now a valid option.