WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC4) – After a 20-year-old man, Atonio Sivatia, was run over by a sedan that dragged him 15 feet while he was stunned and told to remain on the ground by police, his mother, Robert Sykes, has filed a lawsuit in federal court against four of the officers involved in the incident.
In the early morning of Dec. 6, West Valley Police received a call saying that a man was causing a commotion in the parking lot outside of their apartment complex at 4000 S and Redwood Rd.
According to the report, the police responded to the scene, prepared to face possible violence. Sivatia had been yelling and punching apartment walls, as well as several car windows, after having an argument with his girlfriend.
Authorities say that upon being approached, Sivatia disobeyed the officers’ orders and walked away, but was stopped as West Valley police officer Ammon Fox used his taser, causing Sivatia to drop to the ground, stunned and lying on his back in traffic on Redwood Road. The report states that “Fox advised over the radio that the male was attempting to be hit by vehicles in the road.” The report also states that Sivatia had been yelling suicidal comments prior to the officers’ arrival.
The lawsuit shows that Atonio said “I’m sorry” to Officer Fox for disobeying, but that the officer forced him to stay on the ground, and that “any reasonable officer would have known with certainty that compelling a suspect, like Atonio, to lie on his back in a lane of high-speed traffic on Redwood Road at midnight would subject that suspect to a very high risk of catastrophic injury from being struck by a motorist who would not expect to encounter a person lying on the road at that time of night.”
The lawsuit alleges that Atonio was nearly struck soon after dropping to the ground, and that the officers were well aware of the possibility of grave injury due to oncoming traffic.
Sivatia was, in fact, run over by a white sedan not long after a second officer arrived on the scene, who also neglected to block traffic or move Sivatia off the road, according to the lawsuit.
Sivatia suffered a traumatic brain injury among many other injuries and has since been rendered completely disabled, unable to perform basic human functions such as walking, talking, moving his body normally, bathing himself, or carrying on a conversation. He does not remember where he is or what day of week it is, and “no longer has the physical or mental ability to care for himself in any capacity,” the lawsuit states.
In response, the West Valley Police Department issued the following statement:
“We are aware of a lawsuit filed in this case and will begin the process of reviewing it. The case referenced in the lawsuit is under investigation by Protocol Team 1, which is led by the Salt Lake City Police Department. In addition, this case, as is standard for all uses of force in our department, will undergo an internal review. We don’t draw any conclusion about the case until all the facts are known and the investigation is complete.”