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Family sues cops over shooting at man's home
Unarmed: The suit alleges West Valley City officers were involved in a cover-up of the fatal incident, and that one was under the influence of steroids
By Justin Hill
A West Valley City police officer was under the influence of steroids in July when he fired several shots and killed an unarmed 59-year-old man, attorneys for the man's family claim.
It wasn't the first time officer Steven Ward was involved in a fatal shooting, attorneys Clark Newhall and Edward McBride claim in a federal lawsuit they filed Friday on behalf of Bounmy Ousa's family.
Ward allegedly "boasted" about a fatal shooting in Midvale in 2004, claiming responsibility for killing the victim by shooting him in the head and saying he had obtained the first notch on his belt.
After Ousa's death, the city, through its police chief and high ranking police officers, "encouraged, aided and abetted a conspiracy among its officers to manufacture evidence to exculpate Ward of a charge of unjustified killing," the suit alleges.
The suit, which seeks at least $1 million in addition to other damages, names officers Ward and Matt Carman, West Valley City and 20 "John Does" believed to be police officers who participated in an alleged cover-up.
"This is about justice," said Steve Ousa, Bounmy Ousa's son.
West Valley City Attorney Richard Catten said Monday night he hadn't seen the lawsuit and declined to comment on it. Ward could not be reached for comment.
Newhall said his office has turned over to Salt Lake City police items a private investigator found in a trash can outside Ward's home, including a small metal pipe with brown residue, vials containing a white crystalline substance and a short straw of the type used to inhale illegal substances. The police also have evidence from an informant who says Ward used steroids and purchased the drugs from Eastern Europe, Newhall said.
Salt Lake City police spokesman Dwayne Baird confirmed his department was asked by West Valley City to look into "matters" surrounding the shooting investigation. The department was still investigating, but Baird refused to provide further details.
The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office has cleared Ward of any wrongdoing in connection with both shootings, said West Valley City police Capt. Tom McLachlan.
In the Ousa case, District Attorney David Yocom declined to pursue charges against Ward and Carman after determining they acted within the performance of lawful duties and that the "use of force was reasonable and justified under the criminal code of the state of Utah."
Bounmy Ousa died outside his home after being shot several times at close range by Ward, who sat parked in an unmarked police car near 3300 West Brookway Drive with his partner, Carman. The officers were conducting surveillance on a neighboring home, which was scheduled for a narcotics search warrant later in the evening.
Ousa approached the vehicle and spoke with the officers, who identified themselves as police and asked him to return to his home.
Ousa stepped away from the car and removed a "shiny, black, metallic object" from his waistband, according to police. Ward thought it was a gun and fired four times at Ousa.
The object turned out to be a flashlight, according to the investigation. Ousa died a short time later. In July, Newhall predicted to The Tribune that the department was going to claim Ousa had the flashlight in his hand, leading officers to believe he had a gun.
And that's what the department did, according to the lawsuit.
The officers allegedly conspired to manufacture evidence to exonerate Ward by searching Ousa's house to get the flashlight after learning of it after questioning his son.
They also conspired to mislead the investigator for the D.A.'s Office, the suit contends. The officers allegedly lied by saying that Ousa had an object in his back pocket when he approached the car and that he reached behind his back and withdrew the object, which appeared to be a weapon.
The officers also lied when they said that Ousa was carrying a flashlight when he was shot and that it was found beside or on Ousa immediately after the shooting, the suit contends.
The officers allegedly "conspired to deliberately delay" medical care to Ousa, who didn't die immediately after being shot. As a result, Ousa was deprived of a chance of surviving, the suit claims. His children also were not allowed to provide any aid or comfort to the dying man, according to the suit.
The suit also contends that West Valley City had known about Ward's steroid use before July 2004 as well as Ward's boasting of the 2004 shooting.
In that shooting, eight officers - five from West Valley City and three from the Metro Gang Project - killed Donald Jeffrey Newman, 24, on March 13, 2004, after he allegedly reached for a gun. Neuman was wanted for homicide.
The city, through its police chief and supervisory officers, "deliberately and willfully ignored the dangerous and improper" conduct of Ward, endangering Ousa's family and residents of West Valley City, the suit claims. The city was "grossly negligent" when it allowed Ward to continue his illegal drug use, the suit states.
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Officer involved in fatal shooting faces steroid charge
SALT LAKE CITY - A former West Valley police officer who shot an unarmed man to death last year has been indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of importing anabolic steroids.
Steven C. Ward, 27, resigned from police force earlier this year for an undisclosed reason. A wrongful-death lawsuit against the city by the slain man's family was settled for $450,000.
Ward was sitting in an unmarked police car on July 7, 2005, conducting surveillance for narcotics agents who were about to serve a search warrant on a nearby house when Bounmy Ousa approached his car.
Police said Ward and his partner told the man to go away. When Ousa reached behind his back, appearing as if he were grabbing something, Ward shot the man, according to police. They said the man apparently had been reaching for a flashlight in his waistband.
The Salt Lake District Attorney's Office found no criminal wrongdoing by Ward in the shooting.
The family disputed that Ousa had his flashlight at the time, and also contended Ward was under the influence of steroids when he killed Ousa.
The lawsuit claimed Ward obtained androgenic steroids from another country in 2004 and shipped them to his house in children's toys. It claimed the police department was aware that Ward used steroids for non-medical purposes.
Ward's trash can had been searched by a private investigator hired by attorneys representing Ousa's family. A small metal pipe with brown residue, several small vials with white crystalline substances and a short straw of the type used for nasal inhalation of illegal substances were recovered, according to the lawsuit.
Police Capt. Tom McLachlan said the shooting was not an incident of steroid rage.
He said that both an internal investigation and the one by the district attorney's office found no signs of steroids being a factor.
McLachlan said there was no prolonged argument leading up to the shooting so there was no built-up rage in Ward.
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Former West Valley detective likely faces probation for plea
By Lisa Rosetta
A former West Valley City detective likely will face probation and a $500 fine in exchange for pleading guilty Wednesday to importing small amounts of anabolic steroids from Slovenia.
A private investigator alerted authorities to Steven C. Ward's drug use after he rummaged through Ward's trash can in September 2005 and found drug paraphernalia and paperwork, according to court documents.
One receipt showed Ward, 27, was sending money to the Central European country via Western Union for the steroids, assistant U.S. attorney Robert Lund said in federal court Wednesday.
The private investigator - hired by the family of 59-year-old Bounmy Ousa, whom Ward killed last year during a surveillance - contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office, which arranged a meeting with the FBI. The DEA later took over the case and, as part of an undercover operation, was able to buy steroids from Ward's source in Slovenia.
E-mails from Ward to his Slovenian source also were discovered on Ward's police department-issued computer, Lund said.
In August, Ward was charged with one felony count of importing a controlled substance - punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine - to which he originally pleaded not guilty. Ward's trial was slated to begin Wednesday, but he struck a plea deal with the government earlier this month.
The investigation into Ward's steroid use began only days after Salt Lake County District Attorney David Yocom cleared the detective in the fatal shooting of Ousa.
Ward shot Ousa several times at close range on July 7, 2005, as the officer sat in an unmarked police car parked near 3300 West and Brookway Drive. Ward and his partner were conducting surveillance on a neighboring home, which was scheduled for a narcotics search warrant later in the evening.
Ousa approached the vehicle and spoke with the officers, who identified themselves as police and asked him to return to his home. Ousa stepped away from the car and removed a "shiny, black, metallic object" from his waistband, according to police. Ward said he thought it was a gun and fired four times at Ousa.
The object turned out to be a flashlight, according to the investigation. Ousa died a short time later.
Ousa's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ward, claiming, among other things, that he was under the influence of steroids when he fired the shots.
Ward was on paid administrative leave until June 30, when he resigned his position at the police department.
West Valley City later settled with the Ousa family for $450,000.