Earlier this month, Adley Shepherd was fired by the Seattle Police Department for punching a handcuffed woman in the back of a patrol car.
Video of the incident has been viewed thousands of times online, and a photo of the woman’s black eye drew outrage.
Shepherd, who wasn’t allowed to speak publicly during the nearly 2.5 year investigation, told KIRO 7 there was more to the incident than the video shows.
He said in the moment, the single punch was his only option to stop the woman who had kicked him in the head seconds earlier.
“I prevented her from assaulting me further by using reasonable and necessary force in a timely manner,” Shepherd said.
Seattle police Chief Kathleen O’Toole believes Shepherd should have acted differently.
“Common sense alone was sufficient to determine that the level of force used was not reasonable or necessary,” she wrote in Shepherd’s Nov. 9 termination notice. “You failed to use the various alternatives to force that were at your disposal, including backing officers, time and distance.”
Shepherd points to investigators who said he followed training, and told KIRO 7 he believes there are other factors that affected the outcome of his case.
Incident started with domestic violence call
Shepherd and other officers arrested Miyekko Durden-Bosley outside a South Seattle home in June 2014 after he and other officers had been called there for the report of a 23-year-old arguing with a man.
Shepherd said he’d had a previous contact with Durden-Bosley, but did not immediately recognize her in 2014.
At one point in the video, Shepherd is heard saying, “One of you are going to jail,” and saying “Eeny-meeny-miny-mo.” An attorney for Durden-Bosley later told reporters those comments showed the arrest was arbitrary.
In an unrelated case in 2009, Shepherd didn’t book a domestic violence suspect into jail. That suspect, Valente Alvarez-Guerrero, went back and killed his roommate. In Washington domestic violence cases, state law requires police officers to arrest the person they think is the primary aggressor and take that person to jail.
For at least 10 minutes of the video-recorded incident with Durden-Bosley, Shepherd is heard speaking with her. Durden-Bosley appeared to resist, and Shepherd pushed her into the squad car.
That’s when she kicked him and Shepherd responded with the single punch.
“She kicked me in the side of my jaw here, and my jaw popped out and popped back in” Shepherd told KIRO 7. “When I got kicked, I felt this ringing – just this high-pitched beep – and my jaw was numb.”
Shepherd said he stepped back briefly because he was stunned. He’s heard saying, “She kicked me,” before he punched Durden-Bosley.
In a lawsuit against the city – one that led to a $192,000 settlement earlier this year – Durden-Bosley said she suffered a fractured orbital bone and a concussion.
Durden-Bosley was arrested for investigation of domestic violence, but her case was dismissed. She was not charged for the kick against Shepherd.
On the video, Shepherd is heard talking about his injured jaw. He told KIRO 7 he suffered a swollen jaw and a mild concussion, but said photographs were not immediately taken. Medical records for Shepherd do not show an injury.
Multiple agencies investigated
The use of force was included in the incident report, and Shepherd was placed on paid administrative leave.
In November 2015, more than a year after the incident, federal authorities said charges would not be filed against Shepherd. In December 2014, the King County Prosecutor’s Office also declined to file charges.
“Evidence reviewed in the case shows that Officer [Adley] Shepherd acted professionally and with restraint up to the point where he was kicked in the head by the suspect as she was being placed into the patrol car,” Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said in a 2014 statement announcing his office would not file charges.
Satterberg said that while Shepherd may have had other options or alternatives to the single punch, “we have concluded that we would be unable to prove that Officer Shepherd’s use of force was criminal,” the statement said.
Interpretations of training
Shepherd said he had been following his training, and pointed to a review of the incident by the lead defensive tactics instructor for the Seattle Police Department, Richard Peterson.
“Anytime somebody assaults, you have the right to protect yourself and stop the threat,” Peterson told investigators with the Office of Professional Accountability. “He hit her one time. The threat was stopped. He controlled her by laying on top of her, kind of holding her down, and he never hit her again. And he was calm.
“He wasn’t emotional. And I thought he did it perfectly.”
Chief O’Toole did not.
“At the heart of my decision is your failure to comply with restrictions on the use of force against a subject placed in handcuffs,” she wrote in his termination notice. “I am unconvinced that your reaction was either a trained instinct or an unintentional response. Your instinctive movement away from the subject, and ability to process and formulate a verbal response prior to your physical response only reinforces this notion.
“Moreover, the level of force you used was not insignificant – quite the opposite, in fact. Your force seriously injured the subject and could have been lethal.”
Allegations of political pressure
Shepherd said it was his lifetime dream to be a police officer. The Army veteran who served two tours in Iraq said with that dream in mind, he avoided drugs and stayed away from crime.
“I did everything to this point to be a good citizen, pay my taxes,” he said. “And for it to be just kind of over like this – I just think it was a lot of political pressure, a lot of things going on across the nation, and I think this was a result of that.”
Shepherd said the time from when he was placed on paid administrative leave to when he received his termination notice, Nov. 9, was unreasonably long. He also told KIRO 7 he believes the timing was planned to draw little notice.
He points to a GoFundMe page that has drawn more than $21,000 in support for him, his wife and his two daughters. If officers didn’t believe he acted appropriately, they wouldn’t support him, Shepherd said.
Shepherd said the finding by the Office of Professional Accountability to terminate him came from an interview with a use of force expert in California, but said OPA director Pierce Murphy did not record the conversation.
Shepherd believes O’Toole and Murphy could have referred to statements from Peterson and others if they had wanted a different outcome.
“I couldn’t close the door because I’d be getting disciplined for slamming the door on her foot,” Shepherd said. “I couldn’t allow her to get out of the car because we are taught to control a suspect and if she would have gotten out she would have kept kicking.”
The day O’Toole signed Shepherd’s termination notice, the police chief told KIRO 7 the time between the incident and the outcome was because of reviews by the King County Prosecutor’s Office, the State Patrol, the Department of Justice review, and the OPA review, and because of a second hearing by Shepherd and his complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“I think that the process was far too long,” O’Toole said of the nearly 2.5 year investigation. “But most of it was not in our purview.”
Shepherd said officers are still trained to take the action that he took against Durden-Bosley.
He also said he wants his job back, and his union gave notice they’ll appeal his termination.
Explaining it to family
For Shepherd, the most emotional part of his interview with KIRO 7 came when he talked about his two young daughters. Have they seen the video? What did they ask? How did he explain it?
“Their friends at school see it,” he said, trying to hold back more tears, “and their teachers see it. We’re dealing with this great amount of scrutiny right now.
“I can’t go to the grocery store, I can’t go to the gym without people judging and not knowing.”
Shepherd acknowledged there are some bad police officers. But he said he isn’t one of them.
“I’m a father. I’m a husband. I’m a decorated police officer. I’m an American. I’m a veteran.
“Every officer out there has a story.”