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New $500,000 claim filed against Seattle Police Department

A still-frame taken from a Seattle Police Department video shows an officer threatening to punch a suspect in custody in a South precinct holding cell. (SPD image)

Lawyers for a young man who claims he was assaulted by a Seattle Police officer then threatened several times in a jail holding cell by the same officer have filed a $500,000 claim against the Seattle Police Department.

Both of the incidents were captured on video.

The first incident happened as officers responded to reports of a drive-by shooting with a pellet gun last August in the 3700 block of South Othello in the Rainier Valley. The video shows officer Clayton Powell,51, a 19-year-veteran, getting into a heated exchange with a man appearing to provoke him. But Powell then gets into an argument with then 18-year-old Ismail Abdella and appears to shove him.

Powell claimed the man spit in his face, which would have justified the shoving as self-defense.

But Abdella’s attorney Christopher Carney says Powell then shoved, slapped and slammed Abdella’s head into a police car while he was handcuffed.

A subsequent video obtained by the Seattle Times shows Powell entering a holding cell at the South precinct and threatening to punch Abdella several times, which Carney argues is grounds for assault charges.

“The videos make it crystal clear that Officer Powell assaulted our client,” Carney says. “He [Abdella] was grabbed up and put into handcuffs and the police have never identified a specific charge of why he was arrested.”

Powell was placed on paid administrative leave and was ultimately assigned to a non-patrol job. Earlier this month, The Seattle Times reported Chief John Diaz sent a letter to City Attorney Pete Holmes for not taking action on potential charges against Powell three months after the case was first referred to his office.

“We are very hopeful that both the City Attorney’s office and the Seattle Police Department will hold him accountable for that and we certainly expect to hold him accountable in a civil lawsuit as well,” Carney says.

Carney says the tort claim is a mandatory precursor to a federal lawsuit, which he expects to file in 60 days.

A Seattle Police Department spokesman says the department cannot comment on pending litigation.

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