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Dori, Seattle attorney argue over City’s $195K payout for officer punch

The City of Seattle paid a $195,000 settlement after Officer Adley Shepherd punched a handcuffed female in the face. (SPD)

KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson believes the City of Seattle caved to public pressure by paying $195,000 to a drunk woman who kicked a police officer in the head. The woman’s attorney, though, says Dori is missing the point.

“This was a (23)-year-old girl punched in the face for no reason,” said attorney Tomas Gahan. “And you can say she shouldn’t have kicked at a cop, but this isn’t a Gestapo state. (The officer) had every other option in the world … If somebody kicks at you when they’re handcuffed in the back for a patrol car, you’re twice their size, have seven other officers around, you could shut the door, you could walk away, you could order her to stand down. You could have done anything.”

Gahan represented Miyekko Durden-Bosley, who was punched in the face by Officer Adley Shepherd in 2014 while she was handcuffed. The woman sued after suffering a fractured orbit of her right eye and the city settled by paying her $195,000.

Related: Should Seattle police pay out of pocket for excessive force?

Gahan said police were called by her boyfriend’s mom, who reported she overheard an argument between the couple. Though his client had been drinking, he asserts the officer had no probable cause to make an arrest.

“It didn’t begin with any sort of investigation that resulted in probable cause,” he said. “It began with him saying, ‘Someone’s going to jail, who’s it going to be: eeny, meeny, miny, moe.’ So what you’re seeing now is my client reacting to a completely arbitrary use of police power.”

Gahan, a former county prosecutor who specialized in domestic abuse cases, said this was a rare situation and poor diffusing technique used by the officer.

“I’m a friend of the police,” he said. “It’s rare that I’ve seen a situation like this. It’s certainly true that some crimes have mandatory arrests attached to them and those include domestic violence assault situations. It does not include even if it existed here, the crime of misdemeanor harassment. That’s not a mandatory arrest domestic violence crime.”

A ‘childish game’

To Dori the arrest is beside the point. Dori says that whether she was innocent or not is a matter for the court. Kicking an officer in the face, on the other hand, is a losing move.

“Yes, I totally agree,” Gahan responded. “I think if police are arresting you, the wisest thing to do if you are completely sober and you understand the law, and if you’re not so outraged by the complete arbitrariness of the arrest that you can control all of your faculties, is to simply say, ‘OK, take me in. I’ll get a lawyer and fight this later.'”

“But I think police officers are trained so that that doesn’t always happen,” he said. “And one of the reasons they are trained in de-escalation is to try to prevent situations from culminating into someone being this upset when they’re arrested. And I think the best way to do that is to follow the law on lawfully arresting somebody and not arresting somebody based on something as arbitrary as a childish game.”

Dori agreed with Seattle Police Officers Guild president Ron Smith who said that Shepherd seemed to have a visceral reaction to being kicked in the head.

“I wish cops could always maintain complete control, just like I wish intoxicated people could always maintain control,” Dori said. “But I think a visceral reaction to a kick in the head is understandable as your client’s reaction to a bad arrest.”

Gahan said that the officer changed his declaration that it was a visceral reaction a year after the incident, instead claiming it was an act of self-defense from what he believed to be an active threat. Beyond that, he said officers are trained to react appropriately to drunk individuals and that there was no conclusive evidence that the suspect’s boot ever actually struck the officer.

“It’s not his job to erupt,” Gahan said. “We don’t want police officers — when a young handcuffed woman kicks at them – [to have] their first reaction [be to punch] them as hard as they can in the face. That’s not what we want to encourage in our police force.

“And you might say this sends a message to drunk people to lash out at the police, but my concern, frankly, is what sort of message would it have sent if you can unlawfully arrest somebody, you can clobber them while they’re handcuffed and safely in the back of your patrol car,” he said. “For me, the message goes both ways.”

An objection worth $195,000

Dori said if the officer did something wrong, it should be dealt with through the police accountability procedure and prosecutors office.

“What I found objectionable was $195,000 payout to an intoxicated young woman who had kicked or kicked at a Seattle Police officer,” Dori said. “That seems completely excessive and, regardless of the officer’s injury, that can be dealt with through the police accountability and the prosecutor’s office and a civil suit if you wanted to try that. But I don’t see the payout for somebody who’s drunk and gets into an altercation with her boyfriend’s family.”

Gahan responded that he believes the city saw a video and investigation that revealed the officer punched in retaliation. Seattle police have a responsibility to not only make sure handcuffed individuals don’t run away, but also that they are protected, he noted. That’s even true if the person is drunk.

“How much would you take to be concussed in jail for three days, to be vomiting all over yourself, to have eye complications for over six months and to be in jail for a crime you didn’t commit for three nights?” he asked.

“I don’t know the answer to your question – I don’t know what I would take,” Dori answered. “Because the way I would view it is: how much responsibility would I have to put on myself for being drunk and kicking at a Seattle police officer? And I’d like to think that I place so much premium on personal responsibility that I wouldn’t go after the city for $195,000 if I got drunk and kicked a cop.”

Gahan argued he places his premium on an officer’s obligation to protect citizens.

“We get cases all the time that we turn down,” Gahan said. “We don’t get cases all the time where Seattle police have put someone on suspension for two years as they’re investigating it. We don’t get cases all the time where the police abuse was this flagrant that the arrest itself had no basis.”

“This wasn’t just a punch,” he said. “This was a punch by someone who is trained in combat, who is twice her size and who breaks her face. You keep talking about the fact that she was disrespectful and … that she was drunk. But the reality is officers meet drunk people all the time.”

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