A 19-year-old man filed a $500,000 claim against the Seattle Police Department on Wednesday, alleging he was the victim of excessive force and menacing behavior on the part of a Seattle police officer.
The claim, a prelude to a potential lawsuit, stems from a high-profile incident in August in which Officer Clayton Powell was captured on video repeatedly shoving the man, Ismail H. Abdella, during a heated confrontation on a South Seattle street.
Powell also was captured on separate video at the South Precinct clenching his fist and making a punching motion toward Abdella as he sat handcuffed in a holding cell.
“This is completely unacceptable and unprofessional policing behavior,” said Christopher Carney, a Seattle attorney who filed the claim on behalf of Abdella. “There simply has to be consequences.”
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Carney said he does not expect to be able to resolve the claim and the next step will be to file suit.
The City Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the claim. It is continuing to review the case to determine if Powell should be criminally charged.
The case recently attracted attention when Police Chief John Diaz sent a pointed letter to City Attorney Pete Holmes in which he complained that the review had “languished” and asked for a decision.
In a reply letter, Holmes said his office was having difficulty finding an outside expert to offer an opinion on the case, a step that Holmes described as crucial to the process. He said he expected to retain an expert soon.
The Aug. 2 incident also drew attention because it occurred just days after the city and the Department of Justice signed a landmark settlement to address federal findings that Seattle officers had routinely used excessive force and displayed evidence of biased policing.
Police said Powell, 52, who joined the Police Department in 1993, was baited into a physical confrontation with Abdella while officers investigated a report of a drive-by shooting involving a pellet gun.
A police summary of the YouTube video described Powell as twice pushing Abdella in the chest followed by what appears to be Abdella spitting in the officer’s face. Powell responded by pushing Abdella, according to the summary.
Powell then grabbed Abdella by the hair while he was being handcuffed by another officer in front of a patrol car, the summary says.
In Abdella’s claim, he alleged that Powell became focused on him, shouting and challenging him to a fight.
Abdella denied that he spat at Powell, as claimed by the officer, and that Powell shoved him and hit him on the head.
After being placed in handcuffs, Abdella’s claim alleged, Powell grabbed him by the hair and shoved his face into the hood of a police car, causing pain and injury.
Police dashboard video has not been released while the case is pending.
In the South Precinct holding cell, Powell’s “menacing” motion that stopped just short of Abdella’s face constituted simple assault, according to the claim. Powell also verbally threatened Abdella during the encounter, the claim says.
Carney, Abdella’s attorney, said his client “did not intentionally spit on anyone” and that, at most, Abdella and Powell stood closely apart while shouting at each other.
No charge against Abdella was referred by police to the City Attorney’s Office.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org