A Seattle teen who says he was beaten by three Seattle police officers after he jaywalked near his home in the Queen Anne neighborhood last summer has filed a lawsuit against the Police Department and the city of Seattle.
A Seattle teen who says three Seattle police officers beat him after he jaywalked last summer near his home in the Queen Anne neighborhood has filed a lawsuit against the Police Department and the city of Seattle.
Joseph Wilson was talking on his cellphone while walking in the 600 block of West Smith Street the evening of July 21, 2009, when he was confronted by Officer Daniel Amador, according to the lawsuit filed this week in King County Superior Court.
Wilson, then 17, told the officer he did not have any identification but that he lived nearby. Wilson also told the officer his family is friends with Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel.
Wilson said Amador told him to call Pugel, but instead he called a friend’s father to report what was going on, the lawsuit said. Wilson said Amador then cursed at him, grabbed him by the arm and tried to yank him into his patrol car.
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Amador told Wilson there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest — a false claim, according to the teen’s lawyer — and was taking him into custody.
The friend’s father, Pat McClure, showed up and videotaped what was happening, the lawsuit said.
“He saw Joey being beaten and that was videotaped,” said lawyer Alisa Brodkowitz, who is representing Wilson. The video, according to the lawsuit, shows the youth being beaten by three officers: Amador, Sgt. Eddie Rivera and Lt. A. Williams.
Wilson was struck in the face and stomach by the officers, the lawsuit said. The youth was taken to the department’s West Precinct and later released to his mother.
He was treated for a broken nose and a concussion, the lawsuit said.
Seattle police spokeswoman Reneé Witt said the allegations against the three officers named in the lawsuit, as well as a fourth officer who was at the scene but not named in the court filing, were investigated by the department. The four officers were exonerated by the department’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), Witt said.
“It is unfortunate that a contact involving a relatively minor offense escalated and subsequently required police use of force to bring a resistive suspect under control,” Witt said in a statement.
Witt said the officers used force to arrest Wilson because the teen was combative, uncooperative and refused to get out of the street while walking and talking on his phone.
On Nov. 6, Wilson was again confronted in his neighborhood by a Seattle police officer, the lawsuit said. An officer, who was present during the July incident, threw Wilson to the ground twice and arrested him, the suit said. The name of the officer was not released by police or lawyers for Wilson.
However, Witt said, that officer also was exonerated by the department’s OPA after an investigation.
Witt said Pugel was out of town Wednesday and unavailable to comment on his relationship with Wilson’s family.
McClure, who videotaped the June 2009 incident, said that when he responded to Wilson’s phone call for help he found the officer had the youth in what he called “a police hold.”
“It was one of those holds that if you move, your arm is going to break,” McClure said during an interview with The Seattle Times “I asked the officer what was going on and he said, ‘it’s a pedestrian violation.’ “
McClure said that when the officer told him he wanted to get Wilson into his car, he ran home to grab his video camera.
“It was shocking because it was a jaywalking thing. I was concerned they were really going to hurt him,” said McClure, who is married to Liz McClure, Times newsroom training editor. “I have known this kid since he was 6 or 7. He’s slightly special-needs, he’s not the type to light fires or kill cats. He is not somebody who is feared in the neighborhood.”
The suit alleges negligence on behalf of the officers and accuses the department of failing to properly train and supervise its officers. It also claims Wilson was assaulted and falsely imprisoned and that his federal and state constitutional rights were violated.
Damages left up to jury
Brodkowitz said that the amount of monetary damages awarded to Wilson should be left up to a jury.
During a news conference Wednesday morning, Wilson read from a prepared statement.
Now 18, Wilson said he has “been in special education my whole life, and my mother always told me that if I ever got in trouble, I should call her or call a family member or friend.
“I can’t believe the police would do this to me. I did not do anything wrong. Before this I trusted the police. Now I am afraid they will hurt me again,” Wilson said.
The lawsuit comes as Seattle police investigate the actions of three officers in two unrelated incidents that were also caught on video.
On June 14, Officer Ian Walsh was taped punching a girl in the face after she tried to intervene in the arrest of a friend near Franklin High School.
In an incident April 17, two officers can be seen on a videotape kicking and stomping on a Latino man lying on a sidewalk, with one threatening to “beat the [expletive] Mexican piss out of you, homey.” The man was later released.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.