YouTube threats target Utah trooper
By Ben Winslow and Geoff Liesik
The Deseret Morning News
Related: Protecting yourself from retaliation threats
SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of people angry over a video showing a Utah Highway Patrol trooper using a Taser on a man stopped for speeding have vented on the Internet.
But some are writing about more than just calling the UHP to complain, or debating the merits of a traffic stop.
"OMG this cop needs to be killed," one person wrote on the Internet site YouTube, where the traffic stop video was first posted.
"I'm seriously going to kill this cop!!! I'm going to utah," wrote another.
"Someone please gut this officer," another posted. "Let him bleed out on the side of the road."
Some of those online comments have prompted the Utah Department of Public Safety to investigate the seriousness of the threats, as state public safety officials decide what to do about the initial traffic stop near Vernal that has become an Internet sensation, viewed nearly a million times.
Some online posts also threaten violence against Jared Massey and his wife, who were pulled over in the videotaped traffic stop.
"Right now, we have no substantial evidence or concern that the officer's life is in danger, but we will follow up," UHP Sgt. Jeff Nigbur said Monday. "We also want to look into that on behalf of Jared Massey's family."
Massey wished the online threats would stop.
"I wish people would have some common decency every once in a while," he said Monday. "When I posted the video it wasn't to vilify the guy, demean him or destroy him, and that's one of the things I hate about this."
"I wish people would realize and think about this: Trooper Gardner is a real person, he's got a real family. Real lives are being affected," Massey added.
The Utah Highway Patrol has received thousands of phone calls and e-mails from people on both sides of the traffic stop debate. A majority say the trooper was wrong to use the Taser.
"I think mostly it's people blowing off steam, and that's fine," Nigbur said. "But you can't say you're going to endanger somebody's life."
Massey said his family also received a few calls criticizing their decision to post the video on YouTube. There have been online posts saying Gardner would have been justified in shooting the Masseys.
Massey called the posts "unintelligent" and said those behind the hurtful messages aren't adding anything to the debate over the use of Tasers by police. He still stands by his decision to post the video on the Internet.
"I think it's a good thing that people know about it so we can say, 'How can we fix it so it doesn't happen again if it's wrong,' but not so we can act like morons," Massey said.
The clip, nearly 10 minutes long, shows UHP trooper Jon Gardner stopping an SUV being driven by 28-year-old Jared Massey on Sept. 14 on U.S. 40 near Vernal. On the tape, Massey can be heard refusing to sign a citation and arguing with Gardner if he was actually speeding, demanding to see the speed limit sign. The trooper ordered Massey out of his car, and the man begins walking toward the posted speed limit sign when Gardner pulls his Taser.
"Turn around, put your hands behind your back," Gardner says.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" a stunned Massey asks.
As Gardner repeats the command, Massey starts to walk back to the SUV. Part of his right hand is seen in his pants pocket.
"What the heck's wrong with you?" Massey asks as Gardner fires his Taser into the man's back.
Massey immediately stiffens and falls backward onto the road, screaming in pain. His wife, Lauren, gets out of the SUV screaming and is ordered back into the car or be arrested.
Massey got the dash-cam tape through a public records request and asked a friend to post the clip on YouTube after, he said, the UHP didn't respond quickly enough to his complaint about the traffic stop. The tape has become must-see online, and Massey has appeared on national TV talking about what happened to him.
It has also sparked a healthy debate over a person's rights when being pulled over. In Utah, a person can be arrested for failing to sign a citation. However, an officer has the discretion to simply write "refused to sign" and tell the person they must face the charge in court.
The UHP said it has expedited its investigation into the traffic stop and may render a decision by the end of the week. There has been discussion among UHP leadership about further training for troopers about traffic stops and Taser use.
"Are we going to learn from this? Absolutely," Nigbur said. "If we need to continue to train on the issue, that's something that we'll do."
Massey has said he is considering a lawsuit against the UHP.
Copyright 2007 Deseret Morning News
YouTube threats target Utah trooper