Family of man who was shot & killed by West Valley police files lawsuit
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — The family of a 31-year-old man who was shot and killed by West Valley City police while handcuffed has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the department and officers involved, saying they want change.
Sunday marked two years since Breinholt was shot and killed by officers while in custody.
Police took Breinholt on Aug. 22, 2019, after they said he showed up intoxicated at his girlfriend’s job and was causing problems.
Breinholt was in the department’s small processing room in the basement of West Valley City Hall, when he reached for an officer’s gun.
#BREAKING: "You're about to die my friend." Family files Civil Rights Action against @WVCPD & Officer who said the words moments before shooting #ChadBreinholt. Lawsuit filed on 2yr anniversary of shooting… Details now on @KSL5TV pic.twitter.com/DPhnuLfztN
— Garna Mejia KSL (@GarnaMejiaKSL) August 23, 2021
West Valley City police released some body camera footage of the incident, which showed the chaotic six-second scuffle before Sgt. Tyler Longman shot Breinholt at point-blank range, killing him.
In the video, Longman said, “You’re about to die, my friend,” just before he shot Breinholt.
Last month, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office ruled the shooting justified. But members of Breinholt’s family said the civil rights action is the first step toward police reform and preventing another tragedy.
“’You’re about to die my friend’ … I mean to me, (it’s) all I think about,” said Breinholt’s mother, Susan Neese.
Neese said the phrase will forever haunt her son’s memory.
“Chad was shot in the head with his hands cuffed behind his back is an execution-style killing,” Neese said.
On Friday, Neese said their family attorney filed a civil rights action against the West Valley City Police Department, the city and at least five officers involved in his arrest and subsequent shooting death.
“We have no choice but to file these civil suits to try to make these changes happen,” Neese said.
The lawsuit alleges officers mistreated Breinholt for hours before the struggle inside the police department’s basement DUI processing room ended in a shooting.
Furthermore, the lawsuit claims Breinholt’s girlfriend told 911 operators and responding officers she was concerned about his mental health saying “it seems like he just wants to commit suicide” and had taken “nine pills of Klonopin.”
But instead of getting him medical help by transporting him to a medical or mental health unit, the lawsuit alleges the officers “conducted a field breathalyzer and arrested Chad.”
“For over two hours,” the lawsuit states, “Chad was trapped in and near the intoxilyzer room with his hands cuffed behind his back” despite obvious signs of being intoxicated and suffering serious mental health issues and conditions, “demonstrated in part by delayed and inappropriate reactions and uncontrollable sobbing.”
The lawsuit claims instead of helping, the officers “antagonized, threatened, harassed and humiliated Chad.”
At one point the lawsuit claims, Breinholt was left crying and pleading for help on the concrete floor for 11 minutes.
Another officer, Detective Lyons, allegedly became concerned about Breinholt’s behavior and went out to his patrol car to pull up more information on the original call. The detective allegedly wrote, “I went out to my police vehicle and pulled up the details of the call to see if there was something more that had occurred as again the level of how he was crying was far more than any other arrested party I have observed in my 20-year career as a law enforcement officer and his behavior seemed off to me and not normal.”
MORE: Read the lawsuit in its entirety here.
Yet, despite these warning signs, the lawsuit alleges officers escalated a situation that could have been prevented.
“The fact that they can just get away with that, there needs to be some reform — there needs to be some change,” said Chase Breinholt, Chad’s brother.
The lawsuit doesn’t specify a monetary amount.
A spokesperson for the West Valley City Police Department told KSL they haven’t been served yet and a response could be pending.
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