Utahn claims police beat and arrested him, even though they knew they had the wrong guy

A flag flies in front of the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City on Feb. 18, 2020. A lawsuit was filed in federal court Friday by a man who claims the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force used excessive force on him, even though they knew right away they had the wrong guy.

A flag flies in front of the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City on Feb. 18, 2020. A lawsuit was filed in federal court Friday by a man who claims the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force used excessive force on him, even though they knew right away they had the wrong guy. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

OREM — A man who claims members of the Utah Major Crimes Task Force used excessive force on him, even though he says they knew they were arresting the wrong person, is now suing the officers involved.

Michael Anthony Roy, 38, and his attorneys from Sykes McAllister, filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday against the Utah County Sheriff's Office, Spanish Fork police, American Fork police, and four officers who were part of the Major Crimes Task Force, claiming excessive force, unlawful seizure, outrageous conduct and that officers failed to intervene in stopping the attack.

The Utah County Sheriff's Office declined to respond to the lawsuit on Friday, saying it doesn't comment on pending litigation.

On Jan. 29, 2019, Roy was arrested and accused of shoplifting. But he was then offered an opportunity to have his case dismissed by becoming an informant for the Utah County Major Crimes Unit, according to the lawsuit.

The next day, members of the task force received information about a Michael Schwabland who "was considered violent and had made threats to shoot at officers," the lawsuit states. Officers in unmarked vehicles converged on a man in a car at a gas station, 500 N. State in Orem, believing they were about to arrest Schwabland.

But as detective Shawn Lott approached the driver's side door with his gun drawn, he was surprised to find "the driver was not Schwabland, it was Michael Roy with whom he had negotiated the day before," according to the lawsuit. "Lott knew from that moment, at the very beginning of the raid, that the person being confronted was Michael Roy, not Michael Schwabland."

Despite that, the detective did not tell the other officers of the mistaken identity, the lawsuit contends.

Roy was pulled from his car and while on the ground, then was hit in the head with the butt end of a rifle by Sgt. Doug Howell, according to the lawsuit.

"Roy suffered major contusions on his head and cuts and bruises on his shoulders, neck and the sides of his body," and required four staples to close his head wound, the lawsuit states.

He was kicked and punched until he was handcuffed, the lawsuit alleges, and then a Taser was used to "dry stun" his legs.

When the field director for the task force arrived at the scene and learned Roy had been mistaken for someone else, he offered him $2,000 "as hush money to fix the mix-up in identity" and offered to pay for Roy's medical bills, the lawsuit states. Roy says his medical bills were not paid.

A board that reviewed the use-of-force incident determined that Howell was not in compliance with department policy and that other officers should have spoken up when they realized they had the wrong person, according to the suit.

"The officers perpetrated an assault and battery on Roy, severely injuring him in a way that was egregious and conscience shocking. This is especially so when officer Lott knew from the outset of their operation … that they were assaulting, beating, tasing and arresting the wrong person," the lawsuit contends.

The officers "could have simply told their colleague officers at the very beginning of the raid that, 'Hey, we have the wrong guy. This is not Michael Schwabland. Let's stand down.' But they didn't do that."

Roy is seeing unspecified damages to be determined by a jury.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021 after many years of reporting for the Deseret News

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