In two weeks, Mark Hays will begin trial for assaulting an officer during an incident in the University District last November ["Head Banger," Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, Nov 29, 2007].
Officers from one of SPD's Anti-Crime Team (ACT) units—which generally handle street crimes—stopped Hays and Michael Lujan at Northeast 45th Street and University Way Northeast after the two men allegedly crossed against a traffic light in front of an unmarked ACT SUV. Somehow the incident escalated—police say Hays tackled an officer who had gotten out of the car to approach the men, something witnesses contest— and Hays was left bloodied and bruised from the encounter.
Last week, The Stranger attempted to acquire videotape of the incident ["Information Control," Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, Jan 17]—recorded by an SPD patrol car at the scene—but the department wouldn't hand it over. However, Lujan's attorneys allowed us to review the video.
Unfortunately, the tape does not show how the incident began. What it does show is a gang of SPD officers beating on Hays.
When the camera-equipped patrol car pulls up to the corner of 45th and University, just before 9:00 p.m., you can immediately see two officers pounding on Hays. The officers appear to be struggling with Hays in order to get his hands behind his back and cuff him. Hays lies face down on the pavement.
The video continues, now with three officers on top of Hays, while another stands over him yelling "stop resisting." Meanwhile, one of the officers grinds Hays's face into the cement, while another punches him four times and knees him twice. From the positioning of the camera and the number of people onscreen, it's difficult to tell where officers' blows are landing, but it's clear they're hitting him hard. "There's a lot of blood over there," one officer says, pointing at the ground, after cuffing Hays. Another officer has what appear to be several large bloody patches on the sleeve of his sweatshirt.
Some of the audio is hard to make out, but someone off camera repeatedly shouts at the officers, asking for their badge numbers, while a woman yells, "He didn't do anything."
Finally, the officers get cuffs on a dazed-looking Hays, cut off his backpack, pick him, up and carry him off camera.
While officers deal with Hays, Lujan stands handcuffed in front of the camera, telling someone offscreen that the incident was spurred by jaywalking.
Hays's trial is set to begin in the next two weeks and the videotape may be inadmissible. It's possible that police will claim Hays tackled them, and they may say they used "reasonable force" in response, making the videotape inconsequential to Hays's assault charge.
The problem with the tape is that it doesn't capture the whole incident. Hays could have tackled an officer, however, the fact of the matter is that SPD's highly trained, undercover Anti-Crime Team also played a role in escalating a simple jaywalking stop.