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Squatter call takes twist when cops clash with wrong man: lawsuit

An elderly Utah man who was left bloodied and bruised by police officers during their response to a call of squatter activity has filed a lawsuit against the department for excessive use of force. 

“I never had a bit of control. I was at his mercy, completely. It was quite a blur. It happened, and all of a sudden I was down on the ground tasting my blood,” Utah homeowner Rand Briem said last week of the incident, according to KSL News.

Briem and his wife, Vera, were pulling out of the driveway to run an errand last November when they were met by officers from the Ogden Police Department. Rand Briem was 78 years old at the time of the incident and his wife was 74.

The officers were responding to the home in Ogden over reports of potential squatter activity, according to the lawsuit. A neighbor reportedly complained that someone was living in a home that was foreclosed.

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The lawsuit states that the Health Department posted a non-occupancy sign for the home’s basement over a chemical contamination issue. The notice only applied to the basement, and the Briems were living in their home’s detached garage at the time of the incident.

“There was a health department placard regarding nonoccupancy of the ‘basement’ apartment on the front door of the main residence,” the lawsuit states, adding that the Briems “had been in the detached garage living area just prior to the incident.”

Law firm Sykes McAllister, which is representing the Briems’ court case, provided Fox News Digital with police bodycam footage of the scene, which shows officers approaching the elderly couple and inquiring if they live at the residence.

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“Is this your residence?” one of the officers asks, according to the video footage.

Couple in car with police

“Yeah, that’s my house, that’s my garage,” Rand Briem responds while sitting in the car with his wife. “What are you doing?”

The officer tells the couple that the property is foreclosed and they “should not be here.”

“Yeah, that’s my house, that’s my garage, my house isn’t foreclosed on,” he says, explaining the non-occupancy sign only applies to the basement.

Briem attempts to drive off, and the officer demands he turn his car off so that they can “get this settled.” Briem then becomes visibly irritated by the interaction on his property.

Rand Briem out of his car

“Now, what’s with you?” Briem says after getting out of the car. “… What is this? What investigation, for hell’s sake, you dumb s—.”

Briem tells the officers he will prove he is the legal resident of the property by showing them his driver’s license, noting he “will not give it to” the officers. His wife also gets out of the car and tells officers that Briem is “ill.”

The first officer takes Briem’s driver’s license out of his hands, sparking a confrontation between the two.

“After one to two seconds, the officers forcefully took Mr. Briem to the ground of his driveway for no apparent reason,” the lawsuit alleges.

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Elderly man getting arrested

The bodycam footage shows the officers attempting to arrest Briem as his wife screams that “he is ill.” Briem is ultimately handcuffed while lying face down on the ground.

“Don’t grab me,” officers are heard telling Briem. The lawsuit, however, argues Briem was not grabbing the officers.

After he was handcuffed, officers seated Briem on the porch of the home and then inspected his driver’s license, the footage shows. The officers are heard telling the man that he should have identified himself sooner and instead wanted “to fight.”

Bloodied man's face after arrest

“We need to make sure you’re all right. That was a pretty hard fall that you took,” an officer tells Briem, informing him that paramedics were on their way to check out his injuries.

“I would be all right if you hadn’t thrown me down on the ground,” Briem replies.

“All you had to do was comply with what we were asking,” the officer tells him.

“I’m a 78-year-old man, and you guys had to throw me down … on the pavement and bust my head open.”

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“Well, that’s what happens when you try to grab me,” the officer says.

“I didn’t try to grab you,” Briem shouts back. “I wasn’t trying to grab you.”

Briem’s rotator cuff was torn during his arrest, and he was left with some bruising, cuts and emotional distress. The couple filed their lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Ogden Police Department and the two arresting officers, arguing that their constitutional rights were violated over the arrest. The suit argued that Vera Briem suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder due to the incident.

The couple’s attorney, Robert Sykes, said at a press conference last week that arguing the incident should never have led to a forceful arrest, even if Briem was rude to the officers.

“No force is appropriate if no force is needed,” Sykes said last Thursday, ABC 4 reported. “There was no force needed that night.”

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“The law is universally clear on this,” he said. “Rudeness does not justify excessive force.”

Briem was ultimately charged with interfering with an arresting officer, according to the Ogden Police Department. His case is still pending in court.

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“The Ogden Police Department is aware of a complaint filed by Attorney Bob Sykes. The complaint is in regards to Ogden Police case 22G85110 which occurred on November 29th, 2022,” the police department said in a statement last week. “… A complete After Action Use of Force review was completed in November of 2022. There is complete Body Worn Camera footage of the interaction which was reviewed by the [officers’] chain of command as part of our After Action Review process. The Ogden Police Department is confident that the court will find our [officers’] use of force justified as our internal review did.”

The Briems’ lawsuit against the department does not specify a dollar amount they are seeking in damages, instead, they are asking for “general compensatory, special, and punitive damages.”

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