KTKeller posted a great story the other day about a juvenile probation councilor that has been charged with assaulting a police officer. There were a lot of detailed, thoughtful comments on both sides of the story. And several times commenters suggested that people seek more facts about the case to go beyond what has been reported in the papers and blogs.
Thanks to the endlessly helpful folks at the SPD media office, we’ve gotten hold of redacted copies of the original police reports. Bear in mind that a police report is by its nature one sided – it’s an officer’s account of what happened for a particular incident. But they are sworn statements made under penalty of perjury.
The incident started on September 4th at 4:07pm, when two officers were dispatched to a report of multiple teenagers throwing rocks across traffic near 23rd & S. Jackson. The officers saw the juvenile suspect step out into a traffic lane on Jackson St near the middle of the block and told him to get back on the sidewalk and not jaywalk. As the officer approached the kid to give him a citation, he told the officer to “get back in your car”.
The suspect wasn’t cooperative with police as they issued the citation, refusing to help in the spelling of his name or to give any picture ID or social security number. The report says he was “acting in a very agitated and semi aggressive manner”. At one point he put his hands in his pockets and refused to remove them and “continued to clinch his fists and place his body in an aggressive fighting posture.”
A crowd of 20-30 unhappy people were starting to gather around the scene during this time. Officers report recognizing “known area gang members” among them, and ended up putting the suspect into a patrol car and taking him to the precinct to continue the identification and citation process.
The suspect’s probation officer, Ms. Gaston, was called somewhere around this time, and she arrived at the scene a few minutes later. She approached the officers and asked “What!? Your [sic] arresting him for jay walking now!?” She’s further described as “heated, antagonistic, and accusatory”.
Police ordered her to stay back, but she continued to follow an officer to the patrol car. A female police sergeant put herself between that officer, causing a physical altercation:
Sgt. [redacted] extended her left arm out as Gaston tried to pass her. Sgt. [redacted] told Gaston that she needed to stay back. Gaston continued forward until she ran into Sgt. [redacted]’s arm, which held straight holding Gaston back, providing a safe working space for Officer [redacted]. Gaston jerked her arm, striking Sgt. [redacted]’s arm and knocking it away. Gaston proceeded to lean forward, and with her right hand, push Sgt. [redacted] in the chest. Sgt. [redacted] explained that the attack was unwanted touching.
The report says that Ms. Gaston was not immediately booked for assault “as a matter of professional courtesy”, considering her role with the county. But they note that:
Her actions showed a direct intent to assault an officer. As officers continued to attempt to reason with the hostile and aggressive “probation officer”, she declined to provide the name of her supervisor or his phone number, exclaiming that she was off duty and was not required to.
The use of quotes around probation officer in that part of the report gives me pause.
The suspect was searched at the precinct, where police found that he had a pair of Joe Boxer underwear in one of the legs of his pants. The report mentions that “Speaking with [a witness], officers learned that the item had not been purchased from the Southcenter Sears.” The redacted report doesn’t give any further information as to who the witness was. But it notes that Sears security was contacted and they ran a check that determined that the shorts had not been purchased when the juvenile suspect was shopping there with Ms. Gaston.
The report also mentions that police determined that there was probable cause connecting the juvenile suspect to a previous burglary.
So as is usually the case in these situations, it seems to come down to a question of whether or not you trust the police. And I suppose one could quibble with whether a push and a refusal to stop should be followed up with an assault charge vs. something less onerous like obstruction or disorderly conduct. But I’m guessing the law is clear that it qualifies as an assault in the technical sense.