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Eugene man suing city after traffic stop leaves him with a broken nose

Body camera footage shows police officers arresting Harley Peterson during a November traffic
EPD body camera footage
Body camera footage shows police officers arresting Harley Peterson during a November traffic stop.

A man has notified the city of Eugene that he intends to sue after a traffic stop last fall left him with a broken nose.

Harley Peterson, 27, was driving in the area of West 11th Avenue when he was pulled over by a Eugene Police Officer.

Body camera footage provided by Peterson’s attorney shows his initial interaction with police was calm - he smoked a cigarette while talking to officer Katelyn Loper.

When the second responding officer approached - Justin Peckels - the incident escalated.

Loper asked Peterson to exit the vehicle and when he did not immediately comply, Peckels opened the door, told him he was being detained, grabbed his arm and began to pull him out of the car.

Officers dragged Peterson onto the ground where Peckels punched him in the face while swearing at him. A third officer, Lane Doggett, tased him. In the letter to the city, Peterson’s attorney also accused officers of slamming his head into the grille of a patrol car.

Throughout the interaction, Peterson repeatedly asked why he was pulled over, why he was being detained and told officers he was not resisting. While Peterson was handcuffed face down on the hood of the patrol car, Peckels told him that police had found a gun under the seat in his vehicle. Peckels later calls him an idiot, saying “that’s a good way to get killed.”

Peterson was taken to the hospital and later the Lane County Jail.

According to a police report KLCC obtained through a public records request, Peterson’s vehicle was reported stolen. Police wrote that they heard an officer on the scene yell "gun" and saw Peterson reach for his waistband.

In a letter to the city, Peterson’s attorney, Alicia LeDuc Montgomery, said he never threatened police or reached for a weapon. She said officers escalated the situation, demonstrated a lack of training and used unnecessary force.

A spokesperson for the Eugene Police Department said the agency does not comment on litigation.

In arrest paperwork, police listed Peterson as transient and charged him with unauthorized use of a vehicle, theft, giving a false name and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

He pled guilty to theft and unauthorized use of a vehicle and the other charges were dropped. Before his plea deal, his public defender asked a judge to consider the disciplinary records of the officers involved in his arrest, citing Peterson’s injuries.

The District Attorney's office argued against the release of those records.

In her letter notifying the city of Eugene and Lane County - which Peterson may also sue over alleged lack of medical care - she said he has had breathing issues since this incident, and suffered other trauma.

Peterson plans to sue for negligence, battery as well as other damages. He has two years from the incident to file the lawsuit.

Rebecca Hansen-White joined the KLCC News Department in November, 2023. Her journalism career has included stops at Spokane Public Radio, The Spokesman-Review, and The Columbia Basin Herald.