SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News)- A lawsuit filed this week in 3rd District Court claims guards for The City Library attacked a black man “without cause” in April 2019.
Attorneys for the man, Anthony Nelson, 59, claim that the guards violated rights guaranteed to citizens by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
The lawsuit states the guards were looking for an African American suspect that reportedly attacked a woman with a stick.
“This appears to be a case of extreme racial profiling,” said attorney Lucas Adams. “The only reason Mr. Nelson was assaulted by the guards was because he happened to be of the same race as the suspect.”
Library officials however say they conducted an internal review of the incident and they believe their “staff behaved legally and followed protocols.”
Nelson passed through the library path as part of his normal travel routine. On this particular day, April 4, 2019, documents claim Nelson had stopped to talk to a friend when he noticed two women fighting.
One of the women, an African American, walked away from the fight only to return shortly after and strike the other woman with a stick, the lawsuit states.
The woman was injured and went for help inside the library.
“Despite Nelson’s attempt to help the guards find the woman who had fled by pointing in the
direction where she had fled, the guards did not then, nor ever, pursue the young woman, but
rather, instructed Nelson not to move,” the lawsuit claims.
Nelson kept his hands in the air and made no aggressive moves while he was frisked and patted down, his lawyers state.
“Nelson again informed the guards that he had nothing to do with the altercation and that
the female suspect was getting away. For no apparent reason, [the guard], who was standing in front of Nelson began to strike Nelson in the face with a closed hand fist,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states guards beat him with their fists, a baton, knees, and feet, beating his face and head many times, and placing a knee on his neck.
“In behavior eerily similar to the actions that ended the life of George Floyd in Minneapolis and continue to cause nation-wide protests, one of the guards ‘kneed’ Nelson on his neck causing him to struggle to breathe. The other guard kicked Nelson,” a press release from Nelson’s attorney states.
Nelson did not fight back, only protected his face from the blows, his attorneys state.
He was held by the security guards until the Salt Lake City Police arrived, interviewed witnesses and “instructed the guards to release Nelson immediately.”
Library officials say the woman identified Nelson and another person as the attackers.
“Our staff then followed protocol in detaining Mr. Nelson until the police arrived,” a statement from officials with the Salt Lake City Public Library reads.
“This incident took place over one year ago, and only now are additional allegations of neck-kneeling and chokeholds being raised. We cannot comment further due to ongoing/pending litigation, and we believe that the facts will show that our staff behaved legally and followed protocols,”Salt Lake City Library officials
The two guards are named in the lawsuit, Nathan Larsen and S.O. Corella, along with the Corporation of the City of Salt Lake. The lawsuit also involves the Salt Lake City Public Library, CBI Security Services, a private corporation providing security for the Library, Peter Bromberg, executive director of the Library, and Lu Marzulli, President of the Library Board.
“People have a constitutional right to be safe in their persons,” said Kathleen McConkie, one of the attorneys filing suit. “The presumption that a person is guilty of a crime because of the color of his skin is both unconstitutional and unconscionable,” she said.
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