City investigating use of force in arrest of man at 23rd and Union

The use of force against a hit-and-run suspect in the parking lot of the Midtown Center at 23rd and Union Saturday is under investigation after several witnesses and CDNews raised questions.

Witnesses told CDNews they saw an SPD officer use force when arresting a man Saturday shortly after 4 p.m. Two witnesses we spoke with described an officer using both hands to choke the man after he resisted being placed in handcuffs.

After the struggle, the man was bleeding significantly from a cut near his eye, the witnesses said. One witness said an officer punched the man, causing the cut. The injuries were significant enough that the man was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

The man, Leo Etherly, has been charged with one count of assault and one count of hit-and-run. He pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday in Seattle Municipal Court.

After several attempts to get information about the incident (we were originally told there was no record of it), CDNews obtained the police report, which contains no mention of the use of force, choking or punching (UPDATE: Details about use of force typically end up in a separate use of force report, SPD tells CDNews). It simply states the suspect spit on officers and “was then taken into custody.”

Police stopped the suspect because they suspected him of hitting a person on a bicycle at 29th and Jefferson, then fleeing the scene. The license plate, vehicle and suspect descriptions were all similar to the descriptions from the hit-and-run, the police report says. The person on the bike was not seriously injured.

The official and witness accounts both state that officer approached the man in the parking lot and took him to a patrol car. When officers tried to get him to turn facing away from them so they could cuff him, he resisted. Officers then used force against him, attracting a crowd. Several witnesses told CDNews they were disturbed by that amount of force used.

Somebody may have been shooting video of the incident, according to witnesses, but CDNews has yet to see this video surface (if you know the person with footage, tell them to contact CDNews at [email protected]).

Potentially adding more fuel to the situation, one of the officers involved was Jonathan Chin, who had been accused of excessive force in a previous CD incident at 20th and Jackson. However, SPD spokesperson Mark Jamieson told CDNews Chin is not the officer who is under investigation in this case.

Here is SPD’s version of events, posted to the blotter:

Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) investigators are reviewing a weekend arrest of a suspect in a hit and run collision, 2012-342153.

Shortly after 4:30 p.m. on October 6th, 911 received a report that a driver of a white van had struck a bicyclist at 29th Avenue and East Jefferson Street and fled the scene.

Officers responding to the call spotted a similar van with a closely matching license plate in a parking lot less than a mile away from the scene of the collision. As officers pulled into the lot, they saw a man hurrying away from the van. Officers stopped him, believing him to be the suspect from the hit and run.

The 34-year-old man refused to answer officers’ questions or follow their directions.

Officers strongly believed that they had the right individual and attempted to place him under arrest. An officer readied handcuffs and took hold of the suspect’s left hand. The suspect pulled away, resisting arrest. Officers began to forcefully place the man into handcuffs but before they could do so, he spit a glob of saliva into the face of one officer. The other two officers were also struck by the suspect’s spit. Officers used additional force and took the man into custody.

The suspect sustained injury during the arrest and was provided immediate treatment from Seattle Fire Department medics. Per standard procedure, he was evaluated at Harborview Medical Center and was then booked into King County Jail for assaulting officers. 

A particular force tactic employed by one arresting officer raised questions by the SPD chain of command and a decision was made to send the case to OPA for review.

The three officers who were spit upon declined treatment for exposure to potentially infectious material.

The cyclist was not seriously injured in the collision.

27 thoughts on “City investigating use of force in arrest of man at 23rd and Union

  1. This man physically assaulted Officers and resisted arrest, after allegedly committing a violent felony that could have resulted in the death of a cyclist.

    When you physically resist arrest the police are allowed to use force to detain you, yes it may not look pretty, but it is necessary to detain a violent person who is a danger to the community.

    That fact that Omari Tahir-Garrett is involved makes this complaint stink to high heaven.

  2. For better or worse, In 1985, I attended the Washington State Law Enforcement Acadamy in Burien. It was basically operated by SPD. I am certain that the training has changed and improved a great deal since then. However, it was pretty good then. We obviously went over all kinds of issues with regard to use of force, comuntiy policing strategies. Really – the SOS that people want to call new today, cops have been trying for decades.

    The thing about use of force is – it’s hard to tell where it’s going to go once the violence starts. Now, keep in mind I never initiated or had initiated against me any kind of fight with a suspect in my zone of control. I was almost always courteous (yes, unlike these days) and talked everyone into confessing and going to jail willinging. Lucky perhaps, but, also pretty damned good negotiator.

    That said, I have been in fights where other officers for what ever reason had not managed to gain verbal control over the situation, or, chaos was in progress when we arrived.

    Once you start to physcally engage – anything can happen. You may be going for a take down, grab the hair or head – push it back to set the guy off balance, then pull him forward when he tries to recover his balance. But if your not quick enough you end up with some other part of the body, an arm, a shoulder, the neck. Thing is – you have to finish the take down. In this moment you have enterred a fight and your life is on the line. The suspects adrenalin kicks in. Your adrenalin kicks in. You cannot afford to lose. You must stay ahead of the suspect in your escalation of violence. You try to stay one step above. You don’t just pull a gun and shoot, hard to do once the fight starts anyway, but, punching, strangling, etc are all fair game if the guy resists and fights. No matter what you all think – that is the way it will always be.

    Again, ideally you can be a wonderful human being like me and never have such a fight arise, but, it happens. SPD tries hard to kick out the bad guys. In the Acadamy I was boxing with an SPD recruit, a navy seal twice as tough as me. He was good at blocking my shots, but, somehow when he blocked my body shots I deflected into his face. Face shots that day were not allowed. After a few rounds the guy goes berserk and comes at me swinging hard and wild. I dodged all his shots and the trainger and 4 other recruits had to drag him away screaming. He was tossed out of the acadamy. I ended up taking top physical for the graduating class. Missed top academic by one.

    I was a bit of a flat liner on my polygraph and psych analysis, but, they let me go to work anyway. Basically I am dead cold when S$%& hits the fan. But when I’m not in the fight directly I get pretty amped up, like here on the forum.

    What I’m saying is this. Make your judgements mostly on how the violence started, what were the conditions, what did the suspect do, could the officer have talked through it, did he egg the suspect on? If there was no choice but a take down – then your can’t really judge the officer on violence. He has no choice but to win at any cost. You can’t ask him to go home with a broken nose, missing eye, or in a body bag.

    Look at what precipitated the violence. That is how to judge a cop.

  3. Yup, thought that was Omari. Saw a reporter interviewing him in the parking lot yesterday (Thurs). Better take that interview with a truckload of salt.

  4. I agree! Lets have the world famous SPD be officer, prosecutor, jury, and judge. No need for the oversight committee, or the feds to investigate these wonderfully behaved officers of the law. And at the end of the day Omari had, nor has anything to do with this. And you take the word of an officer who has prior’s? This is the CDNEWS I love, full of hate and idiot ideologies. Aww to be privilege must be nice.

  5. de–es·ca·late: to decrease in extent, volume, or scope.

    These type SPD encounters have been going on for a long time now, so its almost showtime in Seattle. So this is the way this will be played out: The City of Seattle, Mayor’s Office, SPD and DOJ had an understanding based on an agreement regarding ‘use of force’ etc.

    However, obviously certain members of the SPD have chose to ‘challege’ the DOJ and “Connie Rice”. Unfortunately, the City of Seattle, the Mayor’s Office, the Police Chief and the SPD will lose that challege.

    I seriously do believe that as we all speak, a lawsuit against the city will be filed going back who know’s how far. The DOJ and Ms.Rice dont come to play. She will be going after, along with the DOJ, these ‘officers’ who have refused(regardless of a ‘hostile’ suspect) to learn to NOT engage in use of force situations. If the first poster boy#1 ‘John Browning’ on this story got a ‘SPD beat-down’, he’d be talking more reality instead of nonsense.

    REGARDLESS of what a suspect has done to an officer, retaliation by an officer is a violation of your rights. They did get TRAINED against doing that!, didnt they? If not, they will certainly get with the new program(lawsuits, criminal charges, spd jail time). Aand I really would like to thank Tom of CDNews for letting us all get into ‘competition’ on this blog. Remember, you dont have to agree – what’s even more important, are the facts..

  6. I and I suspect other in the community agree with what the officer did and we should have more of it and a more agressive stance! If a few fleeing felons are shot the word gets out to the gangbangers to leave the CD of face what you would expect anywhere else in the city. We are not a containment zone.

  7. It may be true that SPD has its issues and that the DOJ needs to light a fire under Seattle’s ass to get these things sorted out. However, the DOJ is in no way saying that force is never warranted. Law enforcement is just that… enforcement. The police had every right to pull this guy over and arrest him. Even if the suspect turns out to be innocent of the hit and run, the information above points to the arrest as being reasonable.

    As far as “retaliation” goes, please remember that the suspect was no longer just some guy, he was under arrest. He’s going to jail whether he like it or not and the cops have a duty to detain him. Spiting or hitting or whatever doesn’t change the outcome, but it does change the dynamics and the violence will escalate. Seriously, what are the cops supposed to do at that point? Call his mom?

    I basically think that SPD need to clean up their act AND this guy deserved to get popped in the nose. There’s no reason why both can’t be true.

  8. For all you ‘Hard-Learners’ in Seattle:

    The United States of America vs The City of Seattle
    (portion from Complaint)

    Order the Defendant, its officers, agents, and employees to adopt and implement the following to prevent SPD officers from depriving persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States:

    a. Policies, procedures, and training regarding use of force, the reporting of use of force, and supervisory responsibilities regarding use of force;
    b. Improved supervision at the scene of use of force incidents, in the review of use of force reports, and in the review of officer activity;

    From The Seattle Times regarding agreement with the DOJ.

    The 76-page agreement, which was filed in U.S. District Court and subject to approval by U.S. District Judge James Robart, requires the Police Department to take steps to deal with biased policing of minorities, even though the city at one point resisted incorporating that into a settlement.

    The mayor acknowledged the challenges facing the department: “Bias and discrimination exist in all levels of our lives,” McGinn said. “Our Police Department is no different. But this city is committed to eliminating bias.” – end

    I suggest EVERYONE in read the DOJ complaint.

    The United States of America vs The City of Seattle

    The DOJ Investigation of the Seattle Police Department

  9. There should be footage of this from the in-car video systems of the various patrol cars at the scene. Hopefully Etherly’s lawyer is diligent about obtaining it.

  10. Lets define spitting! Because if your throat is being squeezed without warning, and a lil piece of spittal happens to fall upon the person doing the choking, is that getting spit on? Or is a guy gasping for his last breathe and simply doing what he can to get a breathe in, as a crooked SPD officer is unprovoked in putting a death grip on a guys esophagus, spitting? please read the report the officer admit to chocking the citizen before he was spit upon. And furthermore is that all it takes for a officer to act like a common street thug? And why is it ok for a officer of the law to get away with this simply because he hides behind a shield? It’s clear in this city that SPD has a free pass, and are really no different than the so called street thugs they are clearly having a hard time catching! It’s not ok what this officer did! And anybody who is ok with this is just as perverted as these rogue officers!

  11. The violent street thugs are the ones who hit cyclist, spit on police officers and violent resist lawful detainment. Leo Etherly has past arrest and convictions for assault, DV and indecent exposure. Leo quite the court record if you care to look it up, he has been arrested in 5 cites and 3 counties, he is certainly no stranger to law enforcement.

    Maniacal racist felons like Omari Tahir-Garrett jump to defend criminals like Etherly to attempt to justify their vendetta against the Seattle Police, never admitting that it was their own poor decisions that caused them to have a run in with the law. It seems these same people are the ones who don’t say a word when innocent citizens are murdered on our streets.

    The Seattle Police do have their problems. It is a rough, dangerous, thankless job full of psychological stress. When the police do their job they are attacked in the media by the very people who they serve and protect. They have been one of the most professional departments I have ever worked with and we would be much worse off without them.

  12. What was Etherly guilty of? Being black? If for any crime he was tried and served his time, then mr Etherly has the same rights as you and me! As far as hitting a cyclist, it was the wrong guy! Judge thought so, threw all charges out. The cyclist who was hit, described a completely different van and color, and described a completely different looking individual! Sorry but the Police f’d this one up badly! 1 in 3 black men in America has some sort of arrest record due to the unbalance in the justice system and laws aimed at young black men! So that argument is null and void mr browning. Not exactly how Etherly made a bad decision that day, his only mistake that day was wanting some liquor! Only hope that I don’t have to hide my kids every time a crime is committed against a white person in this neighborhood! It’s innocent before guilty and ya’ll have hung Etherly without even hearing all the facts!

  13. hey uppitypothead i remember the cops were linking you to knowledge about a shooting some time ago. Maybe you need to move on if you can’t stand the heat. This is not going to be a containment zone!

  14. Whoa there lil buddy! lets watch the lose lip lies leaping from your poison tongue! Naw they/you weren’t linking me to anything. Im to busy raising kids to be slandered in that matter. Good try though!

  15. I met with this guy right at the mount baker transit and he looks like he is in so much pain with a black eye .. I mean the whole eye ball looks pinkish redish.. It looks horrible he probably did spit on the officers they deserved it!!! I think the officer Whitcomb needs to do some time and think about his life and his actions & maybe officers Whitcomb boss caption whatever its called needs to do his job and hire the right people who want to actually help communities and familes and keep areas safe and not go out attacking people just because their lifes are miserable..

  16. Nope, I do not think so. When a Police Dective gets on the CD news and asks you a direct question, I have little doubt.

  17. Uppity: Honestly, you’re such a troll. “it was the wrong guy! Judge thought so, threw all charges out. The cyclist who was hit, described a completely different van and color, and described a completely different looking individual!” Actually, none of this occurred and the case is still pending trial.

  18. I can’t wait for the dashboard cams to be released!! Lets see how this conversation changes! The News is going to love this one!! I can’t wait

  19. My family happened upon the victim of this crime right after it happened. We were walking with our child to Powell Barnett Park, which is less than a block away from the location of the incident. My husband made the 911 call. While I don’t think the police should use unlawful force, if that indeed occurred, it seems to me that the coverage of this crime understates what happened to the victim and the danger that the driver presents to our neighborhood. The victim was a woman in her late 50s who was struck from behind while she was cycling on a narrow residential street near a traffic circle. (She was in fact on the residential street, rather than MLK, to ride more safely away from the traffic.) Two workers in a delivery truck, as well as another man who saw the white van speeding away, witnessed the accident. It was clear from her broken bike and the road rash all up and down one side of her body that the victim was hit terrifyingly hard. It was fortunate she was not killed or seriously injured and could be treated at the scene. Again this was a residential street, at a traffic circle, less than a block from a public park where children from all around the neighborhood play and cross the street. To have hit her that hard, the van had to have been recklessly speeding through the area — and then callously fled the scene. The suspect who was arrested had a white van with a description and license plate that closely matched those given by the witnesses. That driver could have just as easily hit one of us — or our child — that day. Let’s not minimize this.