SPD releases video from alleged abuse incident


by KING 5 News


Posted on November 28, 2012 at 7:35 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 28 at 9:02 AM

Seattle Police on Tuesday released a dashcam video from an October 6th incident at which a man alleged he was beaten by officers.

The action comes in response to a lawsuit announced Monday by attorney James Egan on behalf of his client, Leo Etherly.

Etherly has said he was choked and beaten to near blindness after he was stopped in the Central District on suspicion of a hit and run involving a bicyclist.

Watch the video (Warning: Graphic language)

He said he was choked and hit by Officer Eric Faust after police thought Etherly had spit on them. Etherly said he did not spit but saliva came from his mouth from the choking.

No charges were brought against him and the case was dismissed.

"It was degrading" said Etherly, at a news conference Monday.

SPD played the dashcam video from the incident at a press conference Tuesday morning.

The video shows two officers attempting to arrest Etherly when a third officer became involved and put his hands around Etherly's neck and allegedly started to choke him.

The video shows the first two officers grabbing Etherly's arms and putting him spread eagle on the back of a patrol car. It was then the third officer performed what police call a "hands on neck" manuever in which the officer put his hands on Etherly's neck, mouth and nose simultaneously.

At this point, when the first two officers had Etherly restrained, the third officer removed his hands from Etherly's neck.

Police say it was then that Etherly clearly spit at the officers.  Sergeant Sean Whitcomb described the incident as a "dangerous and harmful assault." 

Etherly's attorney said his client was just clearing his throat after the "hands on throat" maneuver.

The video goes on to show the third officer punching Etherly in the face, after which Etherly fell behind the patrol car and it appears the officer punched Etherly a second time.

Egan had charged that SPD was deliberately suppressing the video. But SPD said it responds to dashcam video requests as they come in. "Since 2008, Mr. Egan alone has made 316 requests of the Seattle Police Department. He has 10 requests that are currently pending. His current request, like all others, will be handled in the order in which it was received," SPD said in a blog post late Monday.

Officer Faust has a good record.  No record of excessive force. But after his supervisor was told about the incident a police investigation was started.

Seattle King County NAACP President James Bible said what happened October 6th is unacceptable.

"It adds insult to injury and increases the pain. What it does for the community is only perpetuates the mistrust," said Bible. "It was an action out of anger, not out of necessity. It is not the best of what our police department can be."

Bible said the NAACP plans to rally in protest of what happened to Leo Etherly and what has happened in other cases involving the SPD. The rally is scheduled for December 9th.