Two officers. One video. The Seattle Police Department has released body camera footage showing an incident that led city prosecutors to charge an officer for misdemeanor assault.
But the department still has not released body camera footage from the cop who allegedly punched a man twice in the eye during an unlawful arrest. Ofc. Martin Harris, 51, was charged with assault on Friday for the alleged assault, which caused the alleged victim's eye to bruise. Harris has since been placed on administrative assignment.
Police released the video Tuesday evening, about five days after prosecutors charged Harris. The body camera video, which blocks out the alleged victim’s face, shows the point of view of an officer who assisted Harris with the arrest.
The department, which said on Twitter it released Officer Samuel Cook’s video of the incident "in the spirit of transparency," did not immediately respond to request for comment.
According to an affidavit from Sgt. Gary Nelson, who investigated the case, Officers Harris and Samuel Cook responded to a call of a “disturbance” at First United Methodist Church on the afternoon of March 5, 2018. The alleged victim, a regular at the church, was pacing and yelling outside the building's main entrance. Harris first approached the alleged victim, who accused the officer of being drunk.
Harris asked the alleged victim repeatedly for identification. Then Harris grabbed the alleged victim's left arm, put him in a headlock, and punched him twice in the eye, the affidavit states. During the arrest, Harris yells “don’t bite me” multiple times, though it does not appear that the alleged victim bit the officer.
In his affidavit, Nelson states Harris did not have probable cause to arrest the alleged victim, calling it an “unlawful arrest.” He also writes that there is no evidence to support the allegation that Harris was drunk.
Officer Cook’s body camera video begins before Harris put the alleged victim in a headlock. Cook speaks with a woman and petting her dog as Harris and the alleged victim are visible in the background.
"We did get a call about this gentleman. Somebody thought he was suspicious,” Cook tells the woman, whose face has also been blocked out.
"He’s been yelling and stuff, you know just, to himself,” the woman responds.
Behind the woman, Officer Harris can be heard asking the alleged victim for identification and loudly asking him whether he’d like to speak with Harris's supervisor.
The alleged victim responds by accusing Harris of having “slurry, nasty alcohol breath.” As Cook walks over, the man continues to accuse Harris of not being able to stand straight and challenges the officer to walk a straight line.
Harris asks the man for identification again. The alleged victim crosses his arms and says, “you’re drunk.” At this point, the officer grabs the man. As Officer Cook moves in to assist, with his left arm Harris appears to put the alleged victim in a headlock.
At about 2:18, Officer Harris can be heard screaming and then yelling, “Don’t bite me” before appearing to strike the man in the head and grabbing him by the hair.
“You put your shit up in my mouth, bitch,” the man responds. “You put your shit in my mouth.”
Officer Cook can be heard throughout the video calmly telling the man to “just relax,” as Harris continues to repeatedly yell, “Don’t bite me.” The man continues to squirm and accuse Harris of being drunk.
Roughly three minutes after Harris says, “Don’t bite me,” backup officers can be seen at outside the church. They begin to cuff the man. The alleged victim then repeatedly says, “get the asshole off me and I’ll comply,” referring to Harris.
At about 7:20, Harris can be seen smirking at the alleged victim. Harris says, “Welcome to my car” as they place him inside of the SPD vehicle.
Nelson's affidavit also shows that Harris wrote information in a police report that conflicted with witness testimony, claiming that the alleged victim "menaced" church staff, a claim disputed by employees at the scene.
The city attorney’s office charged Harris with gross misdemeanor assault on Friday, which carries a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail or a $5,000 fine.
Harris is scheduled to appear in court on June 20. He is represented by criminal defense attorney David Allen, who the Seattle Times in 2009 called the “go-to guy for cops charged with crimes."