The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) has opened an investigation into Seattle Police Department Detective Anthony Belgarde after he pulled over a King County Metro bus last Thursday for “road rage.”

A passenger on the bus filmed the heated interaction between the bus driver and Belgarde, during which Belgarde suggested the driver could be arrested for obstruction. The driver said Belgarde pulled over the bus after the driver honked at the officers for cutting him off, according to King County Metro radio calls. Belgarde drove an unmarked police car at the time.

The OPA’s complaint tracker has no details about the stop nor a list of which policies Belgarde may have violated, but two videos on social media, recorded radio chatter, and information provided by a Metro employee familiar with the incident helped fill in some of the gaps about what happened before and after Belgarde boarded the bus.

Around midday on Thursday, March 28, a RapidRide C bus heading to Chandler’s Cove pulled out of a bus zone on 35th Avenue Southwest when a black Ford started to pull out in front of the bus. The bus driver honked at the car driver, at which point the car driver flashed his rear police lights. The bus driver continued on his route, but moments later the cops pulled up behind the driver and activated their lights. The bus driver pulled over because he assumed the officers had their lights on to clear traffic and pass the bus. When the cop car, which the driver said was unmarked, did not pass the bus, the driver drove to his next stop at Southwest Avalon Way and Southwest Yancy Street. The cop followed the driver, pulled up behind him, and then boarded the bus. 

The first 30-second video clip on social media appears to show Belgarde in the front of the bus talking to the driver. In the video, the driver explains the moment where Belgarde cut off the bus and the moment he pulled over to let the cops pass after they activated their lights. Belgarde claims the bus driver ran from the cops. 

In the second video, the bus driver says he had the right to honk his horn to let Belgarde know, “Hey, I’m here,” but that Belgarde had no right to cut off a bus. Belgarde denies cutting off the bus and then tells the driver to call his supervisor and tell them to put another driver on the route.

“Are you going to take me to jail?” the driver asks.

“Maybe, right now you’re obstructing,” Belgarde says.

When the bus driver asks why Belgarde stopped him in the first place, Belgarde says, “For the road rage.” The driver then denies having road rage and refuses to give Belgarde his ID while they wait to hear from the driver’s supervisor. 

As the driver explains over the radio what’s happening, he mentions that Belgarde wants to arrest the driver for obstruction. Belgarde then denies saying he planned to arrest the driver. One of the off-camera passengers quietly laughs and then mimics the officer saying, “‘I might take you to jail for obstruction.’” 

Radio calls between the driver and his supervisors captured a supervisor telling the driver to give the officer any information he requested and a supervisor would arrive at the scene shortly. When supervisors arrived on scene, they spoke with the two SPD officers and the bus driver. A metro employee familiar with the situation told The Stranger they had no details on what Belgarde and his partner told supervisors, but the driver recounted more or less the same thing he said over the radio and on the video. One of the supervisors returned to the bus driver after speaking to SPD and talked to him about apologizing to the officer. The driver refused, arguing that, “It wasn’t my fault, they were at fault.” The supervisor then relieved the driver of duty for the day.

Metro spokesperson Al Sanders said the agency knew about the video and confirmed its veracity. Officers made no arrests and Metro bus operations planned to look into the matter and would speak with the driver as well as passengers, Sanders said. 

SPD confirmed that a traffic stop occurred and provided an incident number, but they gave no further details about the stop.

The person who posted the video of the interaction included a caption that said, “I was one of 2 dozen ppl on this bus ride this AM the driver was completely in the right and the officer had his ego bruised.”

No law in Washington bans road rage specifically, though some laws do prohibit aggressive driving. Honking a horn to alert someone you might hit them, as the driver said he did, does not appear to be illegal under Washington law. Whether or not the driver violated any laws, he may still face consequences from Metro. Metro’s rules and procedures tell drivers to cooperate with law enforcement. 

Special Victims Unit Detective Belgarde may also face consequences depending on what the OPA finds in its investigation. The OPA has investigated Belgarde before, including in 2015 after a Port Orchard City Prosecutor charged him with fourth-degree assault for his involvement in the beating of a man at a bar. The prosecutor eventually dismissed the charges in exchange for Belgarde paying the victim compensation. The OPA recommended no discipline in that case due to the fact that the investigation went past the Seattle police union’s negotiated 180-day time limit for OPA cases. The OPA did recommend discipline against Belgarde in 2016 after he and two other officers shot at Cornielous Morris, an unarmed Black man. Then-police chief Kathleen O’Toole reversed the OPA’s disciplinary recommendation in that case. 

Correction: This story was updated to more accurately reflect Belgarde's disciplinary history and Washington State law.