Utah County Sheriff responds after deputy filmed placing high school student in handcuffs

EAGLE MOUNTAIN, Utah — The Utah County Sheriff's Office is trying to figure out whether a deputy who handcuffed a teenage student at Cedar Valley High School in Eagle Mountain last Friday followed department guidelines.

Sheriff Mike Smith said the deputy who handled the case is now facing an internal affairs investigation.

The student was a junior varsity basketball player from Ben Lomond High School in Ogden. School administrators were upset he was sitting in the wrong section while watching the varsity basketball game. They called a school resource officer to remove him from the gym.

Bystanders recorded video of Deputy Flores leading the student out of the gym. The teenager was placed in handcuffs and sat on the ground outside.

"I just got a complaint that the players are saying things behind the girls," one woman said.

The student was detained and only given a warning, not a trespassing citation.

"You're going to put him in handcuffs? For that? For going to the other side?" one woman asked.

"They can’t just arrest him for that," another bystander said.

"You guys don’t know what’s going on," Flores responded.

Smith said the two schools should have been able to handle the case on their own without involving law enforcement.

Tanoka Beard, a basketball coach with Ben Lomond High School, said he believes race played a factor in the way the case was handled.

"It's just saddening and disgusting that there is still racial disharmony in 2020," Beard wrote on Facebook.

"A deputy should never have been called to that," Smith said. "As a parent, I would be upset if that was my child. I would... but to instantly take this to racism? I think it's inappropriate."

Smith said he believes not even the student involved in the case viewed the incident as racist.

"My understanding is he is a great student, and I don’t doubt it for a second, and it’s unfortunate that this is the way things rolled out for him," Smith said. "I believe there are better ways this could have been handled, I’ll tell you that... We will take appropriate measures to make sure this doesn’t happen again."

Deputy Flores is not on administrative leave during the internal affairs investigation.

Jer Bates, the director of communications for the Ogden School District, released the following statement:

“Ogden School District and Ben Lomond High School administration can confirm there was an incident that occurred last Friday, January 17, during a boys basketball game at Cedar Valley High School. Out of respect for the privacy of all students directly involved we will not be providing specific details at this time. We are able to share that there was a situation that involved a small group of Ben Lomond students. One student in that group was involved in an interaction with a Utah County sheriff’s deputy that began inside the school gym and relocated outside the building. The student was not arrested or charged with any crime by Utah County Sheriff’s deputies at that time. That student’s parent was notified that evening by our school administrator who was on scene at Cedar Valley High.

“The event is being examined by Ben Lomond administrators, coaches and students. The student and the student’s parent and an advocate for the family met with Ben Lomond administration and Coach Beard Tuesday morning as part of our ongoing investigation. Cedar Valley administrators and the Utah County Sheriff’s office are also conducting investigations. All three groups will be working together to determine what response is necessary and appropriate.

“We want to discover everything that did happen, we want to correct any wrongs that might have happened and we want to work with our school, the host school Cedar Valley High School and all law enforcement to do everything we can to make sure we don’t find students or visiting students in situations like this in the future.”

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