OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 News) – A junior varsity basketball player at Ben Lomond High School was handcuffed and detained following his game on Friday at Cedar Valley High School.
Laval Stephens, 16, says he and a group of his teammates were sitting on the Cedar Valley side watching the varsity game when an administrator from Cedar Valley High asked them to move.
Laval told ABC4’s Brittany Johnson, he asked the school official why he had to move if he wasn’t doing anything wrong.
“I was just asking, ‘Can you please give me a reason why I have to move? Is there anywhere in the rulebook that says I have to move?’ “
According to Laval, he agreed to leave the area and walked with his coach back to Ben Lomond’s side of the gym.
The basketball player said while he was walking with his coach, a deputy with the Utah County Sheriff’s Department approached him, and that’s when things escalated and took a turn for the worst.
“When he told me to leave he said, ‘You have five minutes to get outside or you’re trespassing.’ So I went outside. I wasn’t being aggressive. I didn’t even touch him.”
“He starts pushing me in the back and then said ‘You’re walking too slow.’ He grabbed me in the back and started pushing me out the door,” Laval recalled.
“I felt like it was unnecessary because I didn’t do anything. He didn’t even take my backpack off. He just put my hands behind my back. My backpack was weighing down on my hands. It was hurting so bad and the rocks were freezing cold.”
The student-athlete, who says he was not the only Ben Lomond player on the opposing team’s side, believes he was targeted because of his skin color but says it was important for him to stay calm during the ordeal.
“I didn’t want to get shot. I see young black men get shot every day. I didn’t want to be a hashtag.”
“It just broke my heart. It broke my heart,” LaTanya Stephens, Laval’s mother said, with tears running down her cheeks. “He’s never been in trouble. I just felt like they went so overboard.”
LaTanya and her husband Vincent believe the police officer could have better handled the situation with their son.
“He immediately targeted my son, threw him on the ground, treated him like an animal, and radioed for backup like he was a criminal,” said Vincent Stephens.
“He [police officer] didn’t diffuse it. He came in there like he was holding the school hostage. I’m very upset and I’m getting down to the bottom of it,’ LaTanya said.
Jon Rentmeister, another Ben Lomond parent, was at the game and witnessed the incident. Jon told ABC4 News that he noticed, “Laval was in trouble” and walked outside to record what was going on.
“I saw the officer get behind him and start doing the push thing – push, push,” Jon explained, while doing a push motion with his hand. “That’s what kind of bothered me.”
“What made you record the incident?” asked ABC4’s Brittany Johnson.
“I thought the way it was being handled wasn’t right. Had it had been my kids I would have hoped someone would have done the same thing,” Jon replied.
Jon’s wife, Melissa, was also in attendance for the game. From her vantage point, the situation escalated when the officer got involved.
“The officer and the administrative person decided to insert themselves and escalate the situation that didn’t need to be. He was already going back with his coach. There was no problem,” she said.
The mother of current and past Ben Lomond athletes said putting Laval in handcuffs was unnecessary.
“This kid is not threatening, he doesn’t have a weapon, he’s not resisting, he’s not talking vulgarity, nothing!”
Laval was not arrested but says he is still shaken from what happened.
“I kind of feel humiliated. I just feel embarrassed at this point.”
In an email on Monday, Utah County Sheriff’s confirmed to ABC4 News that it is investigating the matter.
ABC4 News reached out to Alpine School District. A spokesperson confirmed the incident is under investigation but declined our request for comment.
Jer Bates, Communications Director with Ogden School District, emailed the following statement:
“We are aware of the situation. Because the incident involves a student I cannot comment on any specifics. I am only able to say that administrators from both schools along with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office are working together to investigate this incident.”
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