Utah man admits to slicing officer’s ear with lawn ornament in confrontation
Salt Lake City, Utah (KSL) — A Utah man accused of slicing an officer’s ear with a lawn ornament during a confrontation that drew public outcry over police use of force has pleaded guilty.
Leon Dane Hall, 25, pleaded guilty last week to two counts of assault on a peace officer, a third-degree felony, in a deal with prosecutors. KSL reports the charges were reduced from second-degree felonies, while an additional count of interfering with an arresting officer, a class B misdemeanor, was dismissed.
Hall was arrested Feb. 2, 2016, after Salt Lake police responded to reports of him banging on doors at the Pauline Apartments late that night.
As police approached and began talking to him, Hall refused to give them his name or any personal information, demanding instead to see the officers’ identification, according to charging documents. When they attempted to take him into custody, Hall allegedly resisted and shouted for the officers to stop touching him.
The encounter was recorded from an upper-story window by a bystander, spurring controversy over the force officers used to subdue Hall.
Police said they attempted to push Hall to their patrol car, and he began swinging at them and screaming. Charging documents say the officers then “attempted to gain control of Hall’s upper body” by striking his thigh and lower leg. Hall continued to resist, shouting “Stop!” and “Help!” as officers used the baton again.
The officers had wrestled Hall to the ground when he pulled the cast-iron lawn ornament out of a bag and swung it, striking Salt Lake police officer Tyler Bang in the head, charging documents state. The lower part of Bang’s ear was nearly severed.
Hall had been found incapable of facing the charges against him in court and was committed to the Utah State Hospital for treatment in August 2016, three months after he had been ordered to stand trial. Third District Judge Royal Hansen signed an order Dec. 22, two days after the plea deal was made, releasing Hall from the hospital. He is now in custody in the Salt Lake County Jail.
As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend 365 days in jail for Hall, with credit for the time he has already served. Following his release, Hall will be supervised by Adult Probation and Parole’s Mentally Ill Offender Unit, will be required to comply with medication prescriptions and participate in treatment programs, and will wear a GPS monitor, according to court documents.
Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 16.
Hall has a history of misdemeanor convictions in Utah dating back to 2012, according to state court records. He made headlines in 2011 after he said he was assaulted by a group of men shouting gay slurs at him as he walked home from Club Sound, 579 W. 200 South. The group punched him and kicked his head into a curb, resulting in serious injuries that required jaw surgery, he said.