UA student to sue OV police over football game incident - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

UA student to sue OV police over football game incident

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Posted: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:35 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

A University of Arizona student has filed a lawsuit against the Oro Valley Police Department for an unspecified sum claiming that an officer recklessly detained and assaulted him.

In a suit filed Aug. 11 in Pima County Superior Court, attorneys for John W. Wisner say their client, going to a University of Arizona football game last October, was detained and then shot with a Taser gun by Oro Valley police officer Bryan Wiggins.

Wiggins and other Oro Valley officers were working off-duty security for the university at the time.

According to court papers, the incident left Wisner with "permanent and severe injuries to his head and body, and that as a result (he) suffers and will continue to suffer physical and mental pain and suffering."

The claim goes on to say that Wisner was embarrassed and humiliated as a result of the incident.

Wisner's attorney, James E. Marner of the firm Shultz and Rollins, declined comment on the suit, saying it was too early in the legal process.

Wisner's claim also takes aim at the Oro Valley Police Department's instruction of officers, saying they were "ill-trained and physically/psychologically unfit for the type of duty called for under the circumstances."

Oro Valley Police Department Lt. Chris Olson said the department trains extensively on driving, defensive tactics and firearms multiple times per year.

"We had, as an agency, when you consider all the training hours, more than 10,000 hours of training last year," Olson said.

The police department also has protocols for when Tasers can be used, which include when a subject is pulling away or fleeing from an officer. The weapon also can be used when a subject threatens self-injury or suicide.

Tasers cannot be used on pregnant women, near hazardous or flammable material, or to threaten suspects and obtain information.

In April, Wisner's lawyer sent a letter of claim to the town and university that went into greater detail of the events that led up to the incident. The letter of claim is a legal move that has to be followed before seeking damages from a public agency.

According to that account, Wisner and a group of friends were walking through the campus en route to the football game between the University of Arizona and the University of Southern California.

A group of Arizona fans, who were angered at seeing one of Wisner's companions wearing a USC shirt, began to heckle and harass Wisner and his group, throwing a bottle at them.

The letter continues to say that one of the fans confronted a member of Wisner's party, at which time Wisner fled in fear for his safety. At that point, Officer Wiggins attempted to grab Wisner.

Believing Wiggins was one of the rowdy fans, Wisner struggled to break free. Once he escaped, Wiggins shot him in the back with his Taser, felling Wisner, who landed face first on a concrete sidewalk. The fall broke his nose, knocked out one tooth and loosened others. His attorney says he then was handcuffed and questioned by Wiggins and other officers.

Wisner and his attorney asked for a $475,000 settlement, which Oro Valley refused to pay, before bringing the lawsuit.

Police reports of the incident differ from Wisner's account.

According to police, Wisner did not run from a rowdy crowd, rather he and his friends instigated the fight. The reports of two Oro Valley officers say they saw him throw punches at a fan.

In Wiggins' report, he writes how he called out "Police, stop!" at the fleeing Wisner, then shouted, "Taser on line, stop!" after which he fired the non-lethal weapon.

Police documents also noted that Wisner and his group had been drinking that day, and that when asked how much Wisner had drank, a friend replied "(he) had too much to drink."

Police drew blood from Wisner after he was taken to University Medical Center, which showed his level at .26 percent. Arizona law considers a person too impaired to drive if their blood alcohol content is .08 or above.

An online blood alcohol content calculator showed that a person Wisner's size, about145 pounds, would have to consume the equivalent of nine alcoholic beverages to reach that level.

At the time of the incident, the Oro Valley officers were considered employees of the university because they were working security for the football game.

Oro Valley police officials told The Explorer in an earlier interview that the university would shoulder the liability for any claim against the officers because of the employment arrangement.

The Town of Oro Valley, University of Arizona and the Arizona Board of Regents were also named in the lawsuit.

© 2014 Tucson Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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