Students say cops entered residence, handcuffed occupants without cause

MIDVALE, Utah — Two University of Utah students say Unified Police officers had no business handcuffing them in their Midvale apartment.

They said they were treated like criminals in their own home. Police entered the residence a week ago because the front door was open. Cops said they have a duty to investigate if they’ve announced themselves and no one responds.

It happened Saturday, March 29, at 3:30 a.m. at the Union Meadows apartment complex.

“We received a call from a neighbor concerned that this apartment door was wide open,” said Lt. Justin Hoyal of the Unified Police Department.

Three Unified officers said they found the door open as well and went in to investigate.

“They made several loud announcements, saying it was the police; they got no response,” Hoyal said.

“If they did announce themselves, I was dead asleep,” said resident Ramiro Aguirre.

Roommate Ben Mertlich said, “I just wake up to an officer with a flashlight and Taser.”

“When I came to it, someone’s pulling me out of bed and to the floor,” added Aguirre.

The roommates said they understand why UPD entered their apartment, but they’re upset about the way cops handled it. They’re angry they were handcuffed and interrogated in their living room.

“As soon as you see the situation, a guy in his underwear in bed, it’s pretty obvious he’s not a burglar,” Mertlich said.

“You’d be surprised how many calls we get of people who’ve ended up at other people’s homes,” Lt Hoyal said. “We didn’t know if someone was hurt or had broken into the home.”

Police said they only detained the two because they were belligerent.

“The officer was asking the individual in bed to show his hands were he could see him; he brought it out and flipped the officer off,” Hoyal said.

The resident responded.

“Well I’m asleep in my own house at 3 in the morning, I didn’t know it was a cop, I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke,” Aguirre said.

“We explained the door was open because the latch was broken and they didn’t seem to really care,” Mertlich added.

The officers eventually took the cuffs off and left, but the two residents are left feeling violated

“It’s pretty vulnerable to be in that position. You have nothing, you have no defense,” Mertlich said.

Unified Police feel they had probable cause and are standing by their officers while Aguirre and Mertlich are mulling legal action. Defense Attorney Greg Skordas tells FOX 13 News that may be a long shot.

Since the two were released, Skordas said, there are no damages and it’s highly unlikely an attorney would take a case like this. FOX 13 News posed similar questions to representatives at the American Civil Liberties Union. They declined to comment.

79 comments

  • atlbench

    Now I will also add that whoever dispatched the officers should also have qualified the call. “Have you seen suspicious activity?” Would have been the first question. Cause doors come in pretty much two ways, closed or open. And if calling the cops for an open door is a valid reason to dispatch, uhhhhh… That’s like 50/50 on doors. When I see an open door (even at 3:30am) I’m not so inclined to call law enforcement (since open doors aren’t against the law). What if it was simply hot, or they burned a pizza or the, uhhhhh, I dunno…. WIND blew it open?!!! What if it was a WINDOW? People are such idiots. That’s why it’s against the law to abuse the power of law enforcement. The person that called is totally liable. They could have had problems with these dudes and opened the door their self. Think about that!!!! We need to place blame where it is due. Police responded. People need to really consider when they call police. It’s not a game.

    • Bob

      Lets see you put your money where your mouth is- Got tell each of your neighbors that if they someone using a crowbar to enter a side window in your house they Are Not to Call The Police. Also that if they hear a woman screaming she is being raped that they Are Not To Call Police.

      • Trish Ramirez

        Oh, shut up. No one saw anyone being raped or a window being jimmied with a crowbar. Those would have been actual crimes in progress. What we had here was a busybody who saw a DOOR AJAR and called the cops.

        Cops are supposed to protect and serve, not harass and intimidate.

        Heck, even if they fail to protect and serve and just want to enforce the law, what law were they supposed to have been enforcing?

        You people and your demand of a nanny state.

      • Rich

        Like i stated earlier, dispatch should have qualified the call by asking the caller if they saw anything suspicious. If YOU SIR would call the police to my house simply because my door is open I would have a MAJOR problem. I’m very glad you’re not my neighbor. My neighbors aren’t weaklings that call police on a whim. I’m sure my neighbors, if they actually suspected suspicious activity, would at the very least try to determine if it was actually unlawful activity before jumping to the phone. 911 for an open door? The caller should pay a fine.

  • shoobyboppitydoo

    “As soon as you see the situation, a guy in his underwear in bed, it’s pretty obvious he’s not a burglar,”

    not necessarily true…people have done crazier things to try and evade police

  • D Fisher

    Trish as always, you have no logical comments and have no knowledge of the law. I saw a post on Facebook that reminded me of you, I laughed of course.

  • Christina

    On facebook I just found a group called “Record Report and Prosecute Utah Police”. Please either join or even just send your story to the admin. They said they will post any videos or stories you want, even if you do not want to join the group and wish to remain anonymous. I have 8 stories to send them.

  • JayHobeSound

    They were handcuffed to teach them who was in charge and to immediately defer to their authority.

  • Trevor

    People who are drunk or drugged out can end up in someone else’s house and fall asleep on their bed with hardly any clothes on. I’d handcuff them if they were being belligerent with me, if I was a cop. I don’t like cops much but I think these cops were justified doing what they did, for the most part. They were being cautious. Broken latch on the door, nobody answers their announcements, find people sleeping in bed without hardly any clothes on…could be easily confused with drunk/drugged out people.

  • Kahty Reilly

    The unified police are getting more and more violent without thinking first, They are so wililing to tazer and beanbag without even knowing who or why they are doing it. It just happened to someone I know. I think they need more training. They should be investigated in all cases.

  • Sue

    I am afraid I made myself very unclear. My point was supposed to be that I am not sure they announced themselves repeatedly or loudly. I wonder if they followed procedure at all,whatever that may be. You certainly wouldn’t think procedure would be to roust them out of bed, be annoyed enough by the finger from a guy who clearly didn’t know what was going on at that moment, and handcuff them.

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