The U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the videotape of a King County sheriff's deputy roughing up a 15-year-old girl in a holding cell to determine whether her civil rights may have been violated.
The U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the videotape of a King County sheriff’s deputy roughing up a 15-year-old girl in a holding cell to determine whether her civil rights may have been violated.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Harris, who heads the local office’s civil-rights division, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office had learned of the incident last month when the Sheriff’s Office announced criminal charges had been filed against the deputy. He said the office “just didn’t have enough to go on” at that point, but the release Friday of the video from a holding cell changed that.
“It is on our radar now,” Harris said Tuesday. “That was the first time we’d seen it, on Friday, and we’ve had a couple of days to talk about it. We are looking, yes.”
Robbie Burroughs, spokeswoman for the Seattle FBI office, said agents have opened a “preliminary inquiry” into the matter, which means they will gather the evidence for review by the Department of Justice.
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“We’re obligated to when we come across something that appears that it could be a civil-rights violation,” she said.
Deputy Paul Schene, 31, of Auburn, an eight-year department veteran, has been charged with misdemeanor assault in connection with the Nov. 29 incident. He’s accused of kicking Malika Calhoun in the abdomen, punching her and pulling her hair in a SeaTac City Hall holding cell after her arrest for investigation of car theft.
If the U.S. Attorney’s Office determines he violated the girl’s civil rights, Schene also could face federal felony charges.
Civil-rights criminal charges against law-enforcement officers, however, are rare. The only other case in Western Washington was filed last year and involved King County sheriff’s Deputy Brian Bonnar. He was accused of assaulting a person in custody. A jury acquitted Bonnar after a December trial.
On the video, Calhoun is seen kicking her tennis shoe off at the deputy as he closes a holding-cell door. Schene then charges into the holding cell, throwing Calhoun against a wall. He knocks her to the floor and, with the help of another deputy, holds her down while he punches her. He then picks her up by the hair and marches her out of the cell. The deputy later says he suffered an injury to his shin from the teen’s shoe.
After obtaining copies of the video Friday, several media outlets, including The Seattle Times, posted the video online, sparking outrage. Calhoun, who is now 16, and her father appeared on CBS’s “The Early Show” on Monday.
She said she screamed at the deputy to stop.
“I was yelling. I was like, ‘This isn’t — I’m not resisting, I’m not resisting,’ and he said, ‘Whether you’re resisting or not, that was assault,’ ” Calhoun said. “Then he just kept doing it and kept going and going.”
Sgt. Jim Laing said the Sheriff’s Office’s Internal Affairs unit “is investigating every aspect” of the case, including the accounts of other deputies at the scene.
Written reports of the November stolen-car arrest indicate none of the deputies involved reported the incident in the holding cell.
Officer Travis Brunner, a rookie deputy who was training with Schene, noted that Calhoun “kicked her shoe off striking deputy Schene in the right shin and causing bruising, bleeding and pain.”
Laing suggested it was possible that Brunner based the information in his written report on what Schene told him, although the videotape shows an officer identified in court papers as Brunner helping wrestle the girl to the floor. As for Schene’s injury, Laing said investigators will look into the possibility that the injury occurred during the struggle, and not when he was struck by the girl’s shoe.
Schene’s attorney, Anne Bremner, did not return several calls for comment.
Schene was released on his own recognizance after he was charged. He’s now on administrative leave from the Sheriff’s Office.
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or firstname.lastname@example.org