LOCAL NEWS

Father: ‘My son just died,’ as West Valley police kick in door

Mar 16, 2018, 7:35 PM | Updated: 11:54 pm

WEST VALLEY CITY — A West Valley City family went public Friday with allegations that police officers illegally entered their home and used excessive force in the hours after their infant son died at the hospital.

“All of it still doesn’t seem real,” said Maryssa Estrada about the February 24th death of her 2-month-old boy, Kameron. “He lived long enough for us to see his eye color change to blue.”

Estrada, and her husband, Tevin Evans, said they were too distraught to give police a statement at St. Marks Hospital in Taylorsville and were told detectives would later visit their home.

“We drove home and as we got home, Tevin went in to hold his kids and cry,” a statement from the family reads. “Maryssa barely made it in the house and sat on the couch in front of the front door and cried with her father.”

Maryssa Estrada, far left, and her husband Tevin Evans, seated next to her, say police illegally entered their home in the hours following their son’s death.

Minutes after the mother and father returned from the hospital, police showed up to get a statement. The situation turned out of control when Kameron’s grandfather, who the family says was upset with the boy’s death, slammed the door on the officers.

Cell phone video shows a West Valley City police officer kicking the door after not being let inside.

“At that point, the officer struck the door two times with his foot,” said a statement from West Valley City Police. “The man inside the house then opened the door and the officer forced entry into the home.”

Once inside, the statement says there was a confrontation with police alleging that Evans struck the officer in the face and caused him to become unconscious. The altercation also included Evans and the officer falling down the stairs.

“My son just died and you’re coming into our house and doing this,” Evans can be heard yelling on the video.

Other family members in the home said they called 911 to report the officer’s actions.

“I don’t think anybody needed to be pepper sprayed,” Evans said while in his attorney’s office on Friday. “I don’t think anybody needed to be put in handcuffs.”

Evans ended up spending the night in jail, but says formal charges have not been filed against him.

“If the officer was able to control his temper and talk to people—if he had de-escalation skills, that probably could have stopped it,” Evans went on to say.

The couple says their son’s death was not suspicious and there was no reason for officers to search the house.

“I’m embarrassed that every West Valley police officer was in my house,” Estrada said.

West Valley City Police Chief Colleen Jacobs says an internal investigation is underway into the officer’s actions.

The attorney representing the family, Robert Sykes, said a lawsuit was ready to be filed Friday morning, but that West Valley City called and wanted to talk first. Sykes said it’s unclear if the lawsuit will be filed at a later date or if the family will settle with the city.

“This is a grieving family,” Sykes said. “There was no reason to use any force at any time against any of these people. They’re terrified.”

The police officer who kicked the door, identified by Sykes as Officer Ben Christensen, has been reassigned while an internal police investigation takes place. The case will also be presented to the city’s Professional Standards Review Board for an independent review.

“While this administrative investigation is underway, the officer’s duties have been modified,” Police Chief Colleen Jacobs said, “and he will not have interaction with the public while this case is under review.”

Chief Jacobs said she has reviewed the body-cam footage and was concerned with what she saw.

“We opened the investigation immediately,” Jacobs said. “That night we started reviewing it. There were supervisors on scene gathering facts that night.”

Chief Jacobs statement went on to say: “We can assure you, we will gain a full understanding of this incident, how it happened, why it happened and how we can ensure that only the highest levels of professionalism are displayed by West Valley City Police Officers.”

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Father: ‘My son just died,’ as West Valley police kick in door