There will be no prosecution in a case where SPD officer slugged an intoxicated, handcuffed woman, fracturing bones in her face; the case now goes to internal investigators.
Federal prosecutors say they will not charge a Seattle police officer who punched a handcuffed, intoxicated woman during an arrest in June 2014.
In a letter to Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes wrote that her office will not seek an indictment against Officer Adley Shepherd, who has been on paid leave since the June 22, 2014, incident.
The decision opens the door for the department’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) and its newly formed Force Investigation Team to review the incident to determine whether Shepherd should be disciplined.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg last year determined his office would not seek state felony charges against Shepherd, 39, a 10-year department veteran, for punching Miyekko Durden-Bosley while she was in the back of his police cruiser.
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Durden-Bosley, 23, was intoxicated and was verbally abusive after her arrest outside the home of a Seattle man whose mother had called the police. Durden-Bosley swore at Shepherd and kicked at him while being shoved into the back of a police cruiser, according to the investigation.
Shepherd reacted by punching her once in the face, fracturing the orbit of her right eye. Shepherd suffered no visible injuries, according to court documents.
The incident was captured on patrol-car video.
Durden-Bosley has since filed a civil lawsuit against Shepherd in U.S. District Court.
Hayes, in her letter, noted that federal criminal civil-rights prosecutions are difficult to charge and hard to prosecute.
“After careful consideration, we concluded that the evidence does not establish a prosecutable violation of the federal criminal civil rights statutes,” she wrote. “Please note that our conclusion that the evidence does not meet the high standard … does not in any way condone the conduct that was the subject of our investigation.”
The letter was co-signed by Paige Fitzgerald, the acting chief of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division criminal section in Washington, D.C.
Initially, the SPD turned its investigation over to the Washington State Patrol (WSP), which turned to the director of training at the state police academy, Robert Bragg Jr., to review the video and its investigation.
He concluded that Shepherd’s actions were inappropriate, inconsistent with best practices and inflicted unnecessary injuries to the woman.
However, criminal prosecutors in Satterberg’s office reviewed the video and WSP investigation and concluded that they could not say that the force Shepherd used wasn’t necessary.
Shepherd, they concluded, had “acted professionally and with restraint up to the point where he was kicked in the head by the suspect as she was being placed in the patrol car.”
“Officer Shepherd reacted instantaneously to the kick by the suspect, who was wearing boots, with one punch to the suspect’s head which caused a fracture of an orbital socket.”
Prosecutors concluded that, in Shepherd’s case, they could not overcome the legal burden that requires them to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the force used by the officer was not necessary.
Likewise, a federal criminal civil-rights prosecution would have required the government to prove that Shepherd acted willfully and under the color of law to violate Durden-Bosley’s civil rights, that Shepherd knew what he was doing was wrong, and that there was no “legitimate purpose” for the force used, according to the law.
Shepherd’s attorney, Eric Makus, said his client learned of the decision Tuesday morning.
“He’s relieved,” he said. “But I’m outraged. He’s been on leave for 498 days, during which time everybody has had a bite at this apple — city, state and federal — and they’ve ended up with exactly what they started with — nothing.
“That’s because there is nothing there. There was no wrongdoing.”
Shepherd will remain on leave while the Force Review team and the OPA review the case.
Detective Ron Smith, the president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, was likewise critical of the amount of time Shepherd has been in limbo and suggested the Department of Justice had been trying to find a way to make an example of him.
“Absent politics, I can’t for the life of me figure out why this investigation took 11 months,” he said.
The incident drove a wedge between Satterberg and City Attorney Pete Holmes, whose criminal chief reviewed the case earlier and thought it “undoubtedly met the felony standard.”
Holmes sent the case to Satterberg because the city attorney has no jurisdiction to prosecute felony crimes.
A Seattle Times review of such cases showed there has been only one federal criminal civil-rights case filed against a law-enforcement officer in recent history in the Western District of Washington — a 2008 charge against a former King County sheriff’s deputy for kicking and beating a handcuffed woman.
A jury acquitted the deputy at trial.
Shepherd now faces a review by the OPA to determine whether his actions fell within department policy. He could be disciplined or fired but would not face jail time or other criminal sanctions.
Shepherd and Durden-Bosley were both treated at Harborview Medical Center, where Washington State Patrol investigators later served a search warrant for medical records.
After he was kicked, Shepherd is heard on the video saying, “My jaw is jacked,” and complained of soreness in his jaw and a shooting pain in his face. However, the medical records showed “no obvious injury.”
Durden-Bosley was taken to jail after her injuries were treated, and she spent four days in jail for investigation of assaulting a police officer before the case against her was dismissed.