Employee of Salt Lake Valley youth detention center faces child abuse charge after teen in custody suffers broken arm

Salt Lake Valley Detention Center. Image: Google Streets

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah, Aug. 22, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — An employee of the Salt Lake Valley Detention Center has been charged with second-degree felony child abuse, infliction of serious injury intentionally, after police say he used an unapproved hold on a 16-year-old boy in custody, breaking the child’s wrist.

Lufusi Vea Ofa, 40, has been charged in the case, based on the Feb. 16 incident.

A detective from the South Salt Lake Police Department reviewed surveillance video of the incident, involving Ofa and a boy referred to in court papers as T.M. Ofa’s probable cause statement says the video shows T.M. standing up quickly and looking at two other youths in a classroom.

“As the kids stand up, Ofa enters the classroom, grabs T.M. by the back of the shirt, lifts him off his feet, and violently pulls him to the ground,” the statement says. “T.M. is then handed off to another staff member standing at the door. That staff member takes T.M. by the back of the neck, secures T.M. against the door while Ofa takes T.M’s right arm and places him in a bent-wrist hold.”

Ofa maintain the hold while escorting T.M. to a cell, the statement says. Once inside the cell, T.M. “begins looking at and holding his arm, and appears to be in pain. T.M. point to his arm while speaking to someone outside the room. T.M. lays on the floor, holding his arm.”

A medical report taken the same day at the youth detention center notes a “visible bone deformity” in the wrist, the statement says.

“Medical staff described the deformity as a ‘pretty obvious break’ and called it a ‘janitor’ fracture because even the janitor could see that it was broken,” the statement says. “T.M. was complaining of significant pain. T.M. was given a splint and ibuprofen.”

T.M. was taken to the University of Utah medical clinic eight days later, on Feb. 24 of this year, the statement says.

“After an examination and x-ray, T.M. was diagnosed with an acute fracture of the distal radios, right wrist pain, pain and swelling of the right forearm, and a closed torus fracture of the distal end of the right ulna (longer forearm bone),” the statement says. Ofa was placed on administrative leave the same day, the statement says.

A Juvenile Justice Services internal review determined that Ofa engaged T.M. physically “without proper justification for use of reactive physical intervention, he did not use trained Integral Crisis Response techniques per JJS policy, he used a bent wrist control technique that was not approved, and Ofa failed to accurately account in his incident reports what transpired during the incident, including the nature and extent of T.M’s injury.”

Ofa’s first court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 27.


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