A Seattle woman diagnosed with epilepsy contends she was peacefully participating in July 25 protests on Capitol Hill when police in riot gear tackled and falsely arrested her, then dragged her, handcuffed, unconscious and convulsing, for half a block.
Samantha Six said when she came to several minutes later, police and corrections officers who took her into custody repeatedly ignored and mocked her pleas for her anti-seizure medication. As a result, Six said, she suffered multiple seizures while detained over a roughly 24-hour period.
“I spent hours cuffed, locked up and having seizures while police and jail guards walked past me and ignored me,” said Six, a 31-year-old artist. “I absolutely believed I was going to die.”
Several protesters who watched or videotaped Six’s arrest, and others who encountered her while in custody, corroborate key parts of her story. Neither Six nor her husband, Damien Boyd, 38, who was arrested with his wife, have been charged with a crime.
Six’s contentions highlight a variety of claims by protesters, civil rights groups, attorneys and others who have generally castigated police for a heavy-handed response to protests against racial injustice in Seattle. Police have been criticized for indiscriminately deploying pepper spray, blast balls and flash-bang devices into crowds, injuring protesters, medics, legal observers and others without provocation.
Seattle police declared the July 25 demonstrations a riot and arrested at least 45 people. The department later reported 59 officers had been injured and said someone hurled an explosive at the East Precinct, blowing an 8-inch hole through a wall.
Mayor Jenny Durkan and police Chief Carmen Best tried to spotlight the danger faced by officers in announcing officers had impounded a van used by protesters that held fireworks and other tactical weapons and equipment.
To justify arresting peaceful citizens, Six’s attorneys and others say, police lumped them in with a smaller group of agitators who threw objects at officers, set two trailers on fire, broke windows and damaged cars and other property at the construction site for a new youth jail.
Police inserted mostly boilerplate language in probable cause affidavits for arresting Boyd and several others, citing the arsons and destruction at the construction site at 12th Avenue and East Alder Street. Six and Boyd were arrested more than a mile away from the construction site.
The officer who signed the probable cause statement acknowledged he was “not on scene,” but added unique lines for Boyd’s arrest that contended he’d “struck a uniformed officer during a violent mass disturbance.”
“It’s a copy and paste job,” said Sadé Smith, the couple’s lawyer. “They were nowhere near the fires. [Police are] just lumping everyone in together.”
Sgt. Lauren Truscott, a department spokeswoman, this week released a copy of Six’s arrest report, but referred questions to the Office of Police Accountability, the agency’s civilian-led internal investigations unit. OPA Director Andrew Myerberg said his office was in the preliminary stages of an investigation.
A spokesman for the King County Jail said that commenting about inmates’ health is generally prohibited, but said, “If anyone in our custody has been denied appropriate medical treatment or medications, Jail Health will investigate immediately and take appropriate action.”
Cellphone videos shot by protesters capture the couple’s arrests. A video taken by Walter Stanton, who was arrested with Six and Boyd, shows Officer Scott Luckie poking and slapping Six’s back as a line of officers herd protesters up a street west of Seattle Central College while repeatedly shouting at them to “keep moving.”
In the arrest report, Luckie wrote that Six intentionally served as a “blocker,” using her body as a “shield” to slow and disrupt the police line so that violent protesters could hurl objects at officers.
When Luckie tried to arrest Six, she resisted and Boyd tried “to pull me off Six and tackled” another officer, his report said. Six then “went limp and stayed dead weight,” Luckie wrote.
For safety purposes, Luckie and another officer “carried” Six away from the hostile crowd throwing objects, the report said. A video shows police partly dragging her limp body down a sidewalk.
“Once we were in a safer location Six started to not respond and closed her eyes,” Luckie’s report said. “Six then appeared to have a seizure.”
Fire medics later checked Six and “cleared her for transport to West Precinct,” the report said, before she was booked into jail for investigation of obstructing an officer. Boyd separately was booked for assaulting an officer, a felony.
When a reporter described the police report to Six, who said she hadn’t read it, she called it “laughable.”
“I weigh 135 pounds,” she said. “But I’m a human shield between cops in riot gear and hundreds of protesters?”
Amid the chaos
Six and Boyd said they have peacefully participated in several demonstrations in Seattle since George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police on May 25. The couple peacefully marched and protested for hours near Cal Anderson Park on July 25 before “things turned ugly when the cops showed up,” Boyd said.
Around 5:40 p.m., protesters’ videos captured a line of armored officers, using pepper spray, flash-bang devices, bikes and batons, driving protesters west on Pine Street across Broadway, and north up Harvard Avenue. Amid explosions, smoke, car alarms, drum beats, screams and general chaos, officers can be heard shouting, “Keep moving,” while retreating protesters yell back, “We are moving” and “There’s nowhere to go!”
As the scene moved up Harvard toward East Olive Street, Stanton recorded an erratic close-up of the advancing police line, showing Luckie poking and slapping Six’s back as she retreats in a white helmet and gas mask. Then, amid profane shouting, Luckie pulls Six down from behind, a melee erupts and the video cuts out.
Another video, taken by protester Brad Fox, shows the arrest from a different vantage as several officers tackle Six and Boyd and grab Stanton. While recording, Fox, 36, a commercial film industry professional, shouts: “Those people were just with me. We were [expletive] moving, and these [expletives] arrested them for [expletive] nothing. … There wasn’t any room to walk.”
Fox recorded for the next 29 minutes, capturing Luckie and another officer dragging Six along a sidewalk before laying her limp body down a half-block away.
“She needs medical attention,” Boyd soon calls out.
“Can you call an ambulance, please?” a woman yells. “She looks unconscious..”
“George Floyd died because a bunch of cops didn’t do anything,” a man shouts.
More than 18 minutes elapsed before fire medics arrived to check on her, the video shows. Six later recalled she “didn’t know what was going on” when she regained consciousness.
“I’m a rape survivor,” she said. “I was unconscious in the street and when I came to, I didn’t understand why a man was trying to separate my legs. I screamed at the officer not to touch me.”
Seizures through the night
She and Boyd contend they and others were mistreated for the next several hours as police took them by van to the West Precinct. Officers herded dozens of cuffed protesters, some left bleeding and doused in pepper spray, into cells or onto the floor where they sat, they said.
Six said she pleaded for her anti-seizure medication, called VIMPAT, which was stored in a backpack confiscated during her arrest, explaining she needed the medicine each night to prevent seizures that could kill her.
Several other protesters who were at the precinct corroborate her account.
“She was very distraught, desperate, screaming,” said Aisling Cooney, 25, who contends she also was falsely arrested. “The cops were laughing at her, calling her crazy.”
Luckie wrote in the arrest report that when “Six again was screaming and claiming she had a seizure” at the precinct, fire medics “responded a second time and cleared Six” to be booked into jail.
At the jail, Six said she continued to demand her medication. After she refused to put on a used face mask smudged with someone’s make-up, jail officers put a bag over her head and placed her into a cell for inmates with psychiatric problems, she said. Six used her bedding as a buffer to protect her head while suffering multiple seizures overnight.
When Six’s lawyer, Smith, arrived at the jail early the next morning, a sergeant falsely told her Six refused to meet with her, she said. “The fact that Samantha was asking for an attorney when I was there, there are huge constitutional implications for that,” Smith said.
Jail officials said they have reviewed documentation indicating that Six declined to speak to the attorney more than once while in custody.
Six was released about 7 p.m. Boyd spent another day in jail.
Prosecutors for the city, which is handling Six’s misdemeanor case, and the county, which is handling Boyd’s, say they are still considering evidence and whether to file charges.