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Protesters square off with police in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 30, 2020. Protesters joined others across the nation to decry the death of George Floyd, a black man, who died while being taken into custody by police in Minneapolis earlier this week.

Jeffrey D. Allred, KSL, File

Officer who pushed older man during riot won't be charged at victim's request

By Pat Reavy, Deseret News | Updated - Dec. 4, 2020 at 4:06 p.m. | Posted - Dec. 4, 2020 at 12:00 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake police officer wearing riot gear who pushed an older man to the ground during a downtown riot on May 30 will not face any criminal charges.

But Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Friday that's only because the victim didn't want to pursue any charges.

"Let me be clear," Gill said Friday. "Exact same circumstances with another victim, this case gets prosecuted."

On May 30, as police officers emerged from the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building, 475 S. 300 East, wearing helmets and carrying shields to deal with protesters who had become violent, officer Val Brown knocked over an elderly man with a cane.

The incident was recorded by a local TV news crew. The man's name was not released by the district attorney, but other news outlets have identified him as James Tobin, 67.

Immediately after the man was knocked down, other officers came to his assistance to help him back onto his feet.

On Friday, Gill said after his team reviewed the case, it came to the conclusion that Brown's actions were "unnecessary and unlawful" and that the "elements of an assault were met."

However, the victim expressed several times to prosecutors that he just wanted to "move on" with his life and was not interested in pursuing criminal charges. Gill said he gave the man time to think over his decision, and after visiting with the man again this week, Tobin again said he was not interested in pursuing the matter.

"He did not diminish what happened to him. He did not take away from what he thought was inappropriate behavior there. But he also responded to the fact that other officers came up to him immediately and also helped him," Gill said.

"My take on it is, this victim is a very thoughtful, genuinely compassionate person. And his desire was while the issue needed to be addressed via the police department, and he's hoping that's what would happen, he did not want to pursue a criminal prosecution against this officer."

Although there was enough evidence for a misdemeanor charge to be filed, Gill said he could not ignore the fact he faced bringing a witness/victim to court who would testify he did not want to be there and did not want the officer to be charged.

However, Gill said the man is hoping Salt Lake police will take internal disciplinary action against the officer.

The police department released its own prepared statement Friday regarding the incident and said that an internal affairs investigation determined that an inappropriate use of force was used by Brown.

"This complaint underwent the rigorous internal affairs investigation and was reviewed by the city's Civilian Review Board, who made recommendations on how to prevent such an incident in the future," the statement says.

"It is my sincere hope that Utahns will never see another day like May 30 again," Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown said in a prepared statement. "As always, we will continue to train and improve our tactics to ensure that we have the most professional officers."

The department did not say what discipline Brown faced, but confirmed Friday he is still with the department.

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Pat Reavy


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