Bullets Instead of Help, Mentally Ill Man Says

SALT LAKE CITY (CN) — In a lawsuit against two sheriffs, a diagnosed schizophrenic man claims officers shot him five times in an “ill-conceived” plan to commit him, then Tasered him three times as he lay critically wounded.
     George Finlinson sued the Millard and Utah County Sheriff’s Offices, the state office of Adult Probation and Parole, both sheriffs and five officers, on Wednesday in Federal Court.
     Finlinson claims the defendants knew he “had been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia,” and that he “had committed no crime,” when they “devised and executed a reckless plan to involuntarily commit” him.
     He says the officers surrounded and stopped him while he drove on a rural road, with a fleet of three marked and two unmarked police cars.
     “Because they knew that George went on regular drives in the late afternoon, did not carry a firearm in his truck, and had been successfully pulled over in the past, the Millard County defendants planned to take George into custody while he was out on his afternoon drive,” the complaint states.
     Finlinson says he thought the officers were “out to kill him,” and tried to escape in “a slow-moving drive down a remote dirt road.”
     They tried to box him in at a dead end but he drove around them and struck their vehicles with his truck, after which they “aggressively pursued” him and shot at his tires and at the back of his cab with an assault rifle.
     “Ultimately, the officer defendants shot at George at least 40 times, hitting him five times in the upper back and hip, and once in the neck,” the complaint states. “At least 17 of those shots were fired at the cab of the truck after George’s vehicle was completely disabled and stuck in a concrete ditch.”
     The officers then Tasered him three times, whereupon he said, “I know what you are here for, just finish me,” according to the complaint.
     Finlinson, of Oak City, was arrested and placed in solitary confinement after a week-long hospital stay. He says he was deprived of clothes, glasses or medications to treat his mental illness and the pain from the gunshot wounds.
     He was charged with two counts of first-degree felony attempted aggravated murder, nine counts of aggravated assault, assault by a prisoner, failure to stop at the command of an officer, and misdemeanor counts of interference with an arresting officer and driving on a revoked license.
     Finlinson, 44, says he was held in solitary confinement at Utah County Jail, “naked, blind, and unmedicated,” for three months, and lost 80 pounds.
     He pleaded guilty to five counts of aggravated assault and the remaining charges were dropped. He was sentenced to 5 years probation in June 2015.
     He claims the Millard County sheriff and deputies knew of his mental health issues before they executed their “ill-conceived plan” to commit.
     “Although George had not committed any crime, was believed to be unarmed, and was being involuntarily committed only to receive treatment for his mental illness, the officer defendants brought an assault rifle as the group departed to take George into custody,” according to the complaint.
     Neither Millard and Utah County sheriff’s officials nor Finlinson’s counsel could be reached for comment Thursday.
     Finlinson seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations and emotional distress.
     He is represented by Justin Toth with Ray Quinney & Nebeker.
     Millard County, pop. 12,662, is in central Utah and includes Fillmore, Delta and Kanosh. The seat of Utah County is Provo.

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