The city of Auburn has agreed to pay $250,000 and dismiss a criminal charge against a 49-year-old man who last year sued the police department and one of its officers for pulling him from his car and slamming him to the pavement during a routine arrest, knocking him unconscious and breaking bones in his face.
Auburn resident Khomphet Phetsadakone last year sued the Auburn department and Officer Joe Michels, alleging Michels used excessive force during the Sept. 9, 2019 arrest, which was captured on police car dash-camera video.
In addition to the sum of money, the city of Auburn offered to reduce a driving under the influence charge filed against Phetsadakone to a count of reckless endangerment, and dismiss a pending charge of driving with a suspended license and violating an order that he use an ignition interlock device. The agreement was signed in May.
Kalyn Brady, the public information office for Auburn, said the city would not comment because the criminal case has not yet resolved.
According to the lawsuit and police reports, Michels stopped Phetsadakone’s SUV near Sixth Street Northeast around 12:30 a.m., after purportedly watching it straddle the centerline following a turn.
After stopping the car, the officer can be heard on the dash-cam video repeatedly telling the driver to turn off the vehicle and asking for identification, while the driver asks why he’s been pulled over.
During the exchange, Michels is seen approaching the car with his handgun drawn and held down alongside his leg. He holsters his sidearm as he tells Phetsadakone that he’s being audio and video recorded via a dash camera. Auburn officers do not wear body cameras.
According to his report, Michels said he smelled intoxicants when he approached the car and asked several times to see a driver’s license. In his report, Michels says Phetsadakone told him “no” after the final request.
Michels tells Phetsadakone he’s under arrest, although doesn’t state why. Michels is seen on the video opening the car door and grabbing the driver’s hand in an attempt to handcuff him. Michel, in his report, said Phetsadakone resisted so he applied a “straight wrist twist lock” to his arm, grabbed his shirt and pulled him headfirst out of the car and onto the pavement.
“At this time, Khomphet was unconscious and there was blood coming from underneath his face,” the officer wrote.
The video shows the officer pull Phetsadakone from the car and throw him to the ground. The lawsuit said he suffered a fractured orbital bone.
The lawsuit alleges that Michels “violated the Fourth Amendment’s clearly established prohibitions against excessive force … while arresting him without any objectively reasonable belief that Khomphet Phetsadakone posed an immediate threat of harm to himself or others.
“Khomphet Phetsadakone was not resisting, not fighting, did not have any weapons, made no threats of violence, and was not suspected of a violent criminal offense,” the lawsuit alleges.
King County prosecutors last August charged a different Auburn officer, Jeffrey Nelson, with murder for his third fatal shooting with the department and the city has paid $1.25 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of another man killed by Nelson. Nelson has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge.