Share story

Federal prosecutors say they will review an incident in which a Seattle police officer punched and seriously injured a handcuffed, intoxicated woman, after King County prosecutors said Friday they won’t charge the officer.

Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes, said her office will look at the June 22 incident involving Officer Adley Shepherd for a possible federal criminal civil-rights violation.

The decision comes after King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg announced that his office would not seek a state felony charge against Shepherd, 38, a nine-year department veteran, for punching Miyekko Durden-Bosley in the back of his police cruiser.

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.

Shepherd has been on paid administrative leave since the incident.

Satterberg’s decision reflects a deep difference of opinion between his office and City Attorney Pete Holmes, whose criminal chief reviewed the case earlier and thought it “undoubtedly met the felony standard,” according to a news release issued by Holmes on Friday.

Holmes sent the case to Satterberg because the city attorney has no jurisdiction to prosecute felony crimes.

It now appears Shepherd will not be charged criminally unless the U.S. Attorney’s Office determines that his actions violate federal civil-rights criminal statutes. Such prosecutions are very rare and hard to prove.

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 deputy for kicking and beating a handcuffed woman.

A jury acquitted the deputy at trial.

Shepherd faces a review by the SPD’s Office of Professional Accountability 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.

His attorney, Eric Makus, said his client is anxious to return to work. “He is pleased that he has been exonerated from any wrongdoing,” Makus said.

The department said Shepherd will remain on administrative leave pending the internal investigation.

The incident was caught on in-car video, and its almost six-month investigation has been a hot potato for prosecutors and law-enforcement officials alike. The SPD turned its investigation over to the Washington State Patrol (WSP), which recruited 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.

Shepherd refused to give a statement to WSP investigators. Makus said that’s because the investigators would not let him watch the dash-camera video of the incident beforehand.

Criminal prosecutors in Satterberg’s office reviewed the video, reports and the investigation by a WSP detective sergeant and came to another conclusion.

King County prosecutors said they found that Shepherd 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.

“While officer Shepherd may have had other options or alternatives, we have concluded that we would be unable to prove that officer Shepherd’s use of force was criminal” prosecutors said.

The decision, which has been pending since October, comes as public outcry grows over incidents in Missouri and New York where police officers have not been prosecuted despite using deadly force against unarmed individuals.

In Seattle, protesters have gathered nightly downtown this week to express their outrage over what they consider a lack of police accountability.

The video — which has not been publicly released — does not clearly show whether the kick struck Shepherd, although he can be heard saying, “She kicked me,” according to the documents.

The Washington State Patrol found that it was not clear whether Durden-Bosley’s kick connected with the officer, even after the video was enhanced by the FBI and a private video company.

Shepherd and Durden-Bosley were both treated at Harborview Medical Center, where State Patrol investigators later served a search warrant for medical records.

After the kick, 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 records obtained from Harborview showed “no obvious injury.”

In approving the search warrant, King County Superior Court Judge Sean O’Donnell found, based on an affidavit by a State Patrol investigator, that there was probable cause to believe Shepherd committed the crime of felony second-degree assault.

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 was dismissed.

Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.Mike Carter: mcarter@seattletimes.com or 206-464-3706