Video released by the Seattle Police Department on Tuesday confirms that an officer delivered a violent punch to a suspect’s face in October while he was pinned to the hood of a patrol car.
Video from the Oct. 6 incident shows hit-and-run suspect Leo Etherly refusing to give his name to Seattle Police Officer Eric Faust.
When Etherly resists being handcuffed, Faust places his hands on the suspect’s throat and then pins him to the hood of the police cruiser as two other officers hold his arms. At one point, Etherly seems to spit in the direction of the officer and Faust responds by pounding his fist into the side of the man’s face.
Police claimed that the video proved that the officer only reacted after the suspect spat, which they initially classified as a misdemeanor assault, according to Seattlepi.com.
Etherly’s lawyer, however, claimed that the spitting occurred because the man was trying to clear saliva from his throat after being choked.
“This might be the kind of reaction that somebody gets when they’re waterboarded,” attorney James Egan said.
“He did not intentionally spit on the officers,” Egan explained. “You’ll notice he actually spit in a direction that wasn’t right at the officers, kind of between two. He apologizes for if he happened to accidentally spit on the officers after being choked and before being struck in the face.”
Egan had filed a lawsuit on Monday to have the dashcam video released after calling the incident “the worst case of police brutality I have ever seen.”
The Seattle Police Department is reportedly investigating “a particular force tactic” used by Faust during the arrest.
The initial misdemeanor assault charges against Etherly were dropped because the investigator in charge of the case wanted to pursue felony charges. King County prosecutors declined to file felony charges but there is a possibility that Etherly could be charged in Seattle Municipal Court.
The NAACP is planning a Dec. 9 rally to protest Etherly’s treatment.
Watch this video from CBS News, broadcast Nov. 28, 2012.
Watch this video from attorney James Egan, uploaded Nov. 27, 2012.