King County Sheriff John Urquhart has fired a sergeant who, according to an internal investigation, falsely accused a Metro bus driver of using a profanity during an argument. A deputy already was fired for dishonesty in the incident last November.
King County Sheriff John Urquhart has fired a second deputy over an incident in which a bus driver produced a video recorded on his personal body camera to refute allegations he used a profanity during an argument over bus security.
The video showed no profanity was used during the Nov. 14 argument between the King County Metro Transit driver, Kelvin Kirkpatrick, and the two deputies.
Urquhart sent a termination letter last week to Sgt. Lou Caballero, citing the video captured by Kirkpatrick as proof of misconduct that had cast the Sheriff’s Office in a “negative light” and undermined public trust.
Caballero’s firing was effective Aug. 20. Urquhart’s letter to Caballero was released to The Seattle Times on Monday under a public-disclosure request.
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Earlier this month, Urquhart fired deputy Amy Shoblom, who had alleged she witnessed the driver using the profanity.
Urquhart upheld recommendations to terminate Caballero, 50, and Shoblom, 34, concurring with internal findings that Shoblom and Caballero engaged in dishonesty and that Caballero also retaliated against Kirkpatrick.
Both deputies have strongly denied the allegations.
Their attorney, Julie Kays, issued a statement, saying, “Lou was wrongfully terminated, and the investigation supporting that decision was both flawed and biased.”
The statement said Caballero has been “relentlessly harassed and retaliated” against by the Sheriff’s Office since he alleged in September 2014 that a female deputy — previously identified as Shoblom — was being sexually harassed by another sergeant, Dewey Burns.
Caballero, a deputy since 1999, filed a claim earlier this month for up to $3 million against the county over the alleged retaliation.
Kays previously criticized Shoblom’s firing, asserting Shoblom was targeted for accusing Burns of sexual harassment. Burns, who had exchanged sexually charged texts with Shoblom, ultimately was fired for sending racist and anti-gay texts.
Shoblom and two other female deputies filed a lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office in April, alleging sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
Outside attorneys hired by the Sheriff’s Office found no evidence of discrimination or hostile working conditions, except for supervisory failures on Burns’ part related to sexually charged texts and other conduct.
The Nov. 14 argument culminated months of tension between Caballero and Kirkpatrick, who had complained that Caballero’s deputies weren’t doing their job on the overnight shift, according to sheriff’s records. As part of its duties, the Sheriff’s Office provides law-enforcement services for Metro Transit.
Shortly after the argument, Caballero filed a complaint against Kirkpatrick, accusing him of using a variation of the f-word while the two spoke behind Kirkpatrick’s bus in downtown Seattle.
Caballero alleged Kirkpatrick yelled and said: “You got three (expletive) deputies out here that don’t do nothing.”
At Caballero’s request, Shoblom wrote a report, stating that Kirkpatrick yelled and used the profanity, with the same improper grammar.
Caballero and Shoblom were unaware that Kirkpatrick was wearing glasses with a built-in video camera, which showed Kirkpatrick saying, “I’m expressing how frustrated I am at the fact that I got three deputies that don’t do anything when I need help!”
Urquhart’s termination letters to Caballero and Shoblom found Kirkpatrick reasonably expressed his frustration, speaking “loudly, clearly, grammatically correctly, and professionally.”
In his letter to Caballero, Urquhart noted the video doesn’t corroborate Caballero’s portrayal of Kirkpatrick as intimidating, irate beyond reason and “angrily, if not wildly” expressing himself through “accusation, profanity, and improper English.”
Urquhart found significant that Kirkpatrick’s concerns about bus security extended to a Nov. 12 meeting between representatives of the Sheriff’s Office and Metro Transit, roughly 48 hours before the argument behind the bus.
The timing struck Kirkpatrick as “more than coincidental,” Urquhart wrote, adding, “It does me, as well.”
“I also find it significant that you and Dep. Shoblom spoke following the interaction, and prepared written statements within roughly sixty minutes of one another that are remarkably consistent in tone and content, to the point of misquoting Mr. Kirkpatrick in nearly identical language,” Urquhart wrote.
Metro Transit cleared Kirkpatrick of the deputies’ allegations, which, Urquhart noted, questioned Kirkpatrick’s professional reputation and jeopardized his job security.
Caballero and Shoblom repeated their allegations during questioning, and after learning of the video adamantly denied they had lied in written statements submitted to Urquhart in June.
Urquhart earlier said Kirkpatrick’s recording fell within legal bounds because people are allowed to shoot video and audio of police officers on the job.
Urquhart’s disciplinary decision on Caballero was delayed when another Metro driver came forward with an allegation he had been falsely, though privately, accused of swearing by Caballero. That was found to involve a different sergeant, Urquhart said.