Utah Taser victim had police history

Copyright 2006 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The man who allegedly resisted arrest and later died after Salt Lake City police used a Taser on him had a history of fighting with police.

Police reports obtained through a Government Records Access and Management Act request show 35-year-old Alvin Itula fought with officers four times in a 13- month period. In one incident he allegedly threatened officers with a shovel and bit an officer in another.

In addition, Itula was a suspect in several other incidents in which the wanted person fled.

Itula died April 22 after struggling with police who used pepper spray, a baton and a Taser to stop him from fighting them. Officers originally tried to question Itula about a bench warrant they did not know had been recalled earlier by the courts.

But rather than talk, Itula immediately ran when officers approached, according to police.

The Utah branches of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have called for reviews in Itula's death. An investigation is ongoing by the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office into the actions of the four officers, who remain on paid administrative leave.

Itula's encounters with police include:

— On May 28, 2004, Itula was pulled over by a trooper in Salt Lake City and was about to be arrested on a warrant for fleeing, according to a Salt Lake City police report. Itula tried to break free from the trooper who then used OC spray. Itula, however, kept running. A UHP trooper and a Salt Lake City police officer gave chase, continuously telling the man to stop and surrender. While running, Itula was hit at least five times on his arms and knees with a baton by the officers, according to the report. "The suspect then began saying, 'Come on, bring it on . . . come on,' " the report stated.

Officers had the 6-foot-2, 240-pound man on the ground once, but he broke free and ran through several back yards. Itula tripped and fell in one yard near a shovel. He got up and started swinging the shovel at officers, the report stated.

Several officers with their guns drawn surrounded Itula, who continued swinging the shovel until more officers arrived and he surrendered.

— On Oct. 19, 2004, Layton police had Itula sit in a chair while questioning him on another incident. He then, "got up and said he was getting a drink. (The officer) grabbed suspect by his coat and the fight was on," according to the police report.

Officers fought with Itula before he escaped through a window, the report stated. On Nov. 5, a Salt Lake City SWAT team found Itula in an apartment and arrested him for the Layton incident.

— On May 17, 2005, Itula was a passenger in a car pulled over by police. When officers learned Itula had an arrest warrant for assault on an officer, they attempted to take him into custody.

Itula ran through several yards and over fences, the report stated. Officers used OC spray and their batons, or asps, on Itula but, "the asp strikes and OC had no effect on (him)," according to a police report. Officers caught up with Itula and tackled him. During a subsequent struggle, "I then felt (Itula) biting the inside of my leg," according to one officer's report.

Once Itula was handcuffed, an ambulance was called to treat cuts and scratches he suffered in the fight. Once he was loaded into the ambulance, he then fought with paramedics, the report stated. Paramedics then determined because he was still combative to have him taken straight to jail. Once in the patrol car, Itula "began pounding his head on the left rear passenger window," the report stated.

— In an incident June 10, 2005, Itula was again resisting arrest, according to a police report. Officers used both a baton and Taser to get him to stop fighting.

"(Itula) was not responding to the use of the Taser or (baton) and was still fighting with the officers," the report stated.

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