BOISE, Idaho – Two black Idaho State University football players are suing law enforcement in Idaho and Utah, saying they were illegally detained and arrested, and victims of excessive force based on their race.
Nehemiah McFarlin and Atoatasi Fox, through their Orem, Utah-based attorney, Daniel Steele, filed a civil rights lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Utah.
McFarlin and Fox pulled over at an Interstate 15 exit in Box Elder County, Utah, following a single-car crash on Dec. 14, 2016, in McFarlin’s brand new 2017 Chevy Camaro, according to the complaint.
While McFarlin and Fox were waiting for assistance, two Utah Highway Patrol officers arrived, the complaint says. With weapons drawn, the officers ordered McFarlin and Fox out of the car, searched them, handcuffed them and told them they were under arrest for robbing a bank in Malad, the complaint says.
While additional Utah and Idaho officers arrived, McFarlin and Fox insisted they were innocent, had alibis and could not have been in Malad at the time of the robbery, according to the complaint.
“Throughout the ordeal, McFarlin and Fox were coerced, berated and threatened, and informed they were going to prison for a very long time,” states the complaint.
“Defendants disregarded the information and evidence that McFarlin and Fox offered, and arrested (them) without probable cause,” Steele said in the lawsuit.
McFarlin and Fox were denied any communication with family for several hours, according to the lawsuit.
Eventually, “after Oneida County Sheriff (Jeff) Semrad finally listened to and examined a few of the obvious and apparent facts,” McFarlin and Fox were released at Oneida County’s request at 6 p.m. the following day.
Semrad was unavailable for comment, Steele did not return a request for comment, and current Oneida County Sheriff Arnie Jones declined to comment.
McFarlin and Fox played on the ISU football team together in 2016 as 18-year-olds. McFarlin played this season, while Fox’s last year with the team was 2017.
McFarlin and Fox are seeking at least $10,000 apiece in damages for the alleged civil rights violations, including illegal search, seizure and arrest based on their race.
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