Cop Watch

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Rave Party Guests Claim Excessive Force from SWAT

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(ABC 4 News) -- Rave party guests from around the world claim the Utah County Sheriff used excessive force to break up a party in Spanish Fork Canyon last Saturday night, and they may seek redress in federal court.

Still, the Utah County Sheriff's department stands behind its officers and said the video proves the accusations are false.

About 90 law enforcement officers from multiple agencies broke up what they said was a rave party on public and private property in the Diamond Fork area of Spanish Fork canyon.

Utah County Sheriff's Sergeant Darren Gilbert said they made about 60 arrests for weapons offenses, driving under the influence, underage drinking, drug possession and distribution, resisting arrest, assault on a police officer and disorderly conduct.

Officers found cocaine, Ecstasy, marijuana, mushrooms, alcohol and large amounts of drug paraphernalia.

Gilbert said a 17-year-old West Jordan girl was found overdosed on Ecstasy, and was treated and released to her parents. He said there were more than 250 people at the party. That is the number for which the county requires a permit, bond and county commission approval. Gilbert said the party did not have that approval.

Jonathan Meader and Lucinda Davies were at the Spanish Fork rave. They said part of the thrill comes not knowing where they will hold the rave until the last minute.

"The raving is a celebration of being alive, and people choose to use drugs sometimes, and lots of people don't. There are so many people that do not use drugs at these parties because we go for the music and we go for the people and we go for the family," Meader said.

Meader and Davies claim the organizers of the rave party did a good job to create a safe environment and watched in shock as 90 officers in SWAT gear converged on the crowd.

"It was like they were expecting a riot or a war," Davies said.

Meader claimed the officers hit people with the butts of their guns.
Accusations of police brutality flood the internet on a well organized international rave network. Photos of the party and accusations against officers came as far as England and Australia.
Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy denied the accusations. He said undercover officers purchased a large quantity of drugs at the party, justifying the police raid and the 60 arrests.

Salt Lake Attorney Brian Barnard plans to seek redress in federal court.

"It makes absolutely no sense at all to crash the party two hours into the event and to come in like storm troopers," Barnard said.

Tracy said none of the photos or video shows any misconduct by his officers. He will have an outside agency investigate any formal complaints made by those arrested at the rave party. So far, Tracy has only received anonymous emails and phone calls.