Rumor has it that the Seattle Police Department is preparing to release the dash-cam video of the arrest of Leo Etherly, and the alleged assault on him by officers Eric Faust, Ronald Campbell, and Jonathan Chin. And judging from the surveillance footage clip above, the dash-cam video should be pretty damn conclusive.
Etherly appears to be cooperative and non-aggressive, sitting on the bumper of the squad car and reclining back away from the officers at the moment they converge on him. All the subsequent action takes place on the hood of the car, in clear view of the dash-cam, as Etherly is allegedly restrained, strangled, and then struck several times in the left eye, before being thrown to the ground.
Perhaps Etherly said something to spark the violent response, but from this angle he certainly doesn't appear to make any sudden or aggressive movements. Etherly was initially charged with hit-and-run and assaulting a police officer. Those charges were quickly dropped.
As Cienna reported earlier, Etherly's attorney, James Egan, describes the dash-cam footage as "the worst video I’ve ever seen of police misconduct by far." And if so, it wouldn't be the first time that some of the officers involved have been accused of violating the rights of suspects.
Officer Jonathan Chin, one the officers accused of holding down Etherly, was found by a federal court last year to have violated the rights of a suspect he detained at gunpoint after a car allegedly cut Chin off in traffic. Chin, who was off-duty, in plain clothes, and driving his personal car, followed the car and pulled his gun on the three occupants, holding them until backup officers arrived. One of the occupants, Andrew Rutherford, was later tackled and injured by officers, including Chin.
The judge awarded Rutherford one dollar in damages, but the court case cost Seattle taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Chin was also involved in the 2009 police shooting of Demetrius James, who was tased by Officer Gerald House through the open window of his moving car, before being shot by Chin upon losing control of his car. A federal jury rejected charges of excessive use of force.
Officer Eric Faust, the officer accused of strangling and punching Etherly, was involved in a 2008 incident in which probation officer Yvette Gaston was arrested for coming to the aid of teenage client who'd been arrested for jaywalking and accused of stealing a bag of clothes Gaston had just bought him.
Gaston says she drove to the scene, showed her badge to Officer Christopher Kelley and identified herself as the youth’s probation officer. The officer told her to leave and, while she was backing up, Gaston says, an officer behind her grabbed her arm while another yelled that she had no business being there. Gaston used her cell phone to call 911 and request a supervisor to come to the scene, but a transcript of the call presented as evidence confirmed that Officer Eric Faust took the phone and told the operator to disregard the call.
Gaston was charged and tried for obstructing and assaulting a police officer, but was later acquitted after Kelley refuted Faust's testimony.
Unrelated incidents, sure. But if the dash-cam video is as damning as the attorneys say, it's just going to add to the public perception of a pattern of police abuse.