A federal grand jury has charged a former Tukwila police officer with excessive use of force for pepper-spraying a restrained prisoner in the Harborview Medical Center emergency room in 2011.
A federal grand jury has indicted a former Tukwila police officer on a charge of violating the civil rights of a man he pepper-sprayed while the man was restrained on a gurney in the Harborview Medical Center emergency room in 2011.
Nick Hogan, who was fired by the department and is currently an officer with the Snoqualmie Police Department, faces up to 10 years in federal prison and fines of up to $250,000 for allegedly depriving the suspect of his civil rights by using excessive force.
On Friday, the city of Snoqualmie announced it was placing Hogan on paid administrative leave in light of the federal indictment.
Hogan, 35, is the first police officer in Western Washington in eight years to be federally charged for actions while “acting under color of law,” according to court records.
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The indictment, handed down Thursday, alleges Hogan “willfully deprived” the victim “of the right … to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, which includes the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer.”
Hogan is an officer with a troubled history. Hired by Tukwila in 2009, Hogan was sued twice in federal court for using excessive force. Those lawsuits cost the city $425,000 in out-of-court settlements and fees.
He was fired in 2012 after an investigation into the incident at Harborview Medical Center concluded that he had used unreasonable and excessive force on the suspect.
In addition to using pepper spray on a restrained suspect in the ER, he admitted to delivering three “knee-strikes” to the handcuffed man’s head while he was trying to remove him from the back seat of his patrol car, according to more than 1,000 pages of internal investigation documents on Hogan obtained by The Seattle Times.
His fellow officers in Tukwila complained that he was overly aggressive, particularly toward people of color, or individuals who were inebriated. The victim in the Harborview incident, identified by the initials M.S., is African-American and was intoxicated, according to Tukwila police internal-affairs documents on the incident.
Research by plaintiffs’ attorneys in lawsuits filed against the city indicated that Hogan had used force more often than any other officer on the Tukwila force, including incidents where he broke the elbow of a man while using an unauthorized takedown technique, and broke the leg of another man in a scuffle at a party that turned into a melee, according to reports.
According to the Tukwila internal documents, on May 20, 2011, Hogan and his sergeant were dispatched to a fight outside a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on Tukwila International Boulevard, where they found M.S. sitting on a bench with a bloody lip. M.S. was uncooperative, they said, and he was wanted on a warrant for failure to comply with his community custody on an assault charge.
Hogan transported him to the King County Jail, but he was refused admittance because of the lip injury. Hogan drove M.S. to Harborview to have the lip stitched up.
At the hospital, Hogan said M.S. refused to get out of the patrol car. When he tried to pull him out, Hogan said M.S. tensed and resisted. Hogan said he could feel M.S. “trying to turn on me, so I administered approximately three knee strikes to M.S.’s head,” which he said was the only “target” available. He then pulled the handcuffed man from the car and aimed him toward the ER entrance.
Hogan said M.S. was cursing and calling him names.
In the ER triage area, Hogan said, M.S. again turned on him, and Hogan slammed him against a wall in the waiting room and shoved him down a hallway, where M.S. fell. Hospital security officials — who would later complain to Tukwila about Hogan’s actions — took M.S. into a small, curtained bay and restrained him hand and foot on a gurney.
The reports state all of this was captured on hospital video.
Hogan said he accompanied M.S. into the small treatment bay, and sat on a stool next to the gurney. Again, his report states that M.S. kept up a steady flood of profanity and threats.
In a recorded statement to internal-affairs investigators, Hogan said M.S. strained against the restraints and was able to sit up and lunge at him, all the while spewing profanities.
“With each threat, he gets closer,” Hogan said. “And it’s not until he is in my space that I realize that he can get to me … but he’s close and all of a sudden I’ve got his bloody, drooling face inside my space and I think if he gets one more of these he’s going to be touching me in some way.”
“So I grabbed him by the neck, pushed him back to the stretcher and apply a short burst of my [pepper spray] to him.”
Nobody else in the hospital was affected by the pepper spray, according to the reports, although the ER bay was evacuated and the ventilation ducts had to be cleared.
Hogan told his commander he never considered just moving away from M.S., and acknowledged that “he triggered my threat response,” according to the statement.
M.S., in a recorded statement to Tukwila investigators, acknowledged that he was being verbally abusive to Hogan, but claimed it was because the officer was being rough. He claimed he never resisted, either in the back of the patrol car or in the ER.
He also said he was never able to sit up on the gurney because of the restraints.
“I told him, ‘you shouldn’t be an officer,’ ” M.S. told the investigators. “I was using verbal language, too, like ‘you’re a bitch,’ and stuff like that. But that didn’t give him no right to — I was only saying that because he kept pushing me.”
Harborview security officer Jill Burr told Tukwila investigators that Hogan slammed the handcuffed M.S. into a wall.
“The patient was not trying to get away,” she said in a prepared statement. “I couldn’t believe what was going on.”
She said she told Hogan, “You have to stop.”
Hogan was hired by the city of Snoqualmie in 2013. Last year, Snoqualmie police officials said they were “aware of allegations” concerning Hogan, but he had ”performed in accordance with police department policies and protocol.”
In March, he was suspended for 20 days without pay for having an affair with another officer’s wife.
Efforts to reach Hogan and the city of Snoqualmie were unsuccessful.
Hogan is the first police officer in Western Washington to be indicted on a charge of a criminal civil-rights violation since 2008. King County sheriff’s Deputy Brian Bonnar was accused of roughing up a woman during a 2005 arrest but was acquitted by a jury at trial.