A King County Sheriff's deputy involved in confrontation with a Seattle journalist last year has been fired.
Deputy "K.C." Patrick Saulet was fired for dishonesty and abuse of authority, according to a termination letter dated January 30.
Saulet was one of several law enforcement officers who threatened to arrest Dominic Holden during a July 30 confrontation. Holden, an editor at The Stranger, was riding by the International District light rail station when he saw a group of officers surrounding and speaking loudly to a young black man. Holden used his smartphone to photograph the scene, which triggered a barrage of threats and sarcastic comments from the officers involved.
Holden said Seattle Police Officer John Marion threatened to show up at The Stranger's offices and harass him, while Saulet ordered Holden to leave the area. According to Holden, Saulet told him that Holden was on private transit station property belonging to King County Metro and he would be arrested unless he immediately left the area.
Holden filed a complaint against both officers. The Seattle officer, John Marion, was recently punished with one day off work without pay. Saulet was fired effective Monday.
Holden told KING 5 he considers Saulet’s termination “appropriate” and said he’s satisfied Sheriff John Urquhart’s office did a thorough investigation.
“I think it’s appropriate when an officer has been dishonest and violated a person‘s constitutional rights, but it’s particularly appropriate given Saulet’s long history of citizen complaints. I think the city is safer with an officer like this off the street,” Holden said.
In the termination letter to Saulet, Urquhart wrote, “you abused your authority in your dealings with Mr. Holden on July 30 ... and rather than be accountable, you attempted to recast events in a light more favorable to you.”
Urquhart said Saulet claimed he’d interacted with Holden in a civil, professional manner and only told him to leave for his own benefit -- to spare him a $66 infraction for riding his bike on Metro property.
The Sheriff said the evidence contradicted Saulet's account and showed that the deputy took exception to Holden lawfully exercising his right to take photographes of the officers and that Saulet was “agitated and confrontational ... and expressly and/or implicitly threatened to arrest him (Holden) if he did not leave immediately in the specific direction you pointed, not once but five times.”
Urquhart said Saulet misidentified public property as private property in the process.
Saulet has a history of complaints during his time at the King County Sheriff’s Department. He has been the subject of approximately 120 allegations of misconduct, with 21 of them sustained violations, according to King County Sheriff’s Office records.
Saulet had been warned about his behavior in the past. In the termination letter delivered to Saulet on Friday, the Sheriff wrote: “You have been repeatedly told you need to improve your interaction with people, coached, counseled on methods for doing so, and warned of the potential consequences of further problems.”
According to the letter, Saulet had been put on three performance improvement plans in the past, was given external training and counseling, and had sessions with a Social Psychologist, but failed to improve his interactions with the public.
“None of this is to ignore or diminish your past service or positive contributions,” Urquhart wrote, “I am well aware that you have worked hard for the Sheriff’s Office for many years and have often acted with considerable courage.”
The Sheriff termed Saulet’s actions in the encounter with Holden to be part of a “larger pattern of unacceptable behavior.”
KING 5 contacted the King County Police Officers' Guild for comment and to request an interview with Saulet.
Urquhart said Saulet is the third deputy he’s fired since he was elected in November 2012. In December, Urquhart fired Sgt. Andrea Alexander for “deception,” finding that Alexander knowingly received premium pay for nine and a half for working as a patrol training officer, even though she’d been moved out of that position and knew she was not entitled to the higher pay.
Urquhart also said he recently fired a deputy in the traffic unit for lying about writing tickets he had not actually written. And Urquhart said that he fired a weapons screener at the King County Courthouse for parking in the King County garage 64 times for free, even though she knew she did not have the authority to do so.