The Seattle Police Department released a second body camera video of an incident that led city prosecutors to charge a cop with misdemeanor assault.
The video, obtained by The Stranger through a public records request, shows the perspective of Officer Martin Harris as he arrests a man outside First United Methodist Church on March 5, 2018.
The City Attorney’s Office charged Harris with assault for punching the man twice in the eye during the arrest, which a Seattle detective later determined was carried out without probable cause. The alleged victim sustained bruising around his eye.
Harris has been placed on administrative assignment. He faces a maximum punishment of 364 days in jail or a $5,000 fine, and is scheduled to appear in court on June 20.
Last week, SPD’s media department released a separate video of the incident taken from the body camera of Officer Samuel Cook, who assisted Harris with the arrest. In releasing the video, SPD cited the "spirit of transparency."
Officer Harris's body camera video shows him exiting his vehicle and approaching a man standing outside the church. In the video, Harris repeatedly demands the man’s identification, becoming more combative in tone after the man refuses and accuses Harris of being drunk.
(The Stranger is declining to publish the man's name because he is an alleged victim of a crime. We have also blurred out his face in Officer Harris’ body camera video.)
“Hello folks. How are you?” Harris shouts as he walks toward the man.
“I’m doing just fine,” the man responds.
Harris then identifies himself and informs the man that he is being audio and video recorded.
“Just for your information, you’re on private property and they want you to move,” Harris says.
“Can you verify this?” the man responds.
“Do you think I’m here because I just saw you standing here?” Harris says. “What’s your— You got ID on you. Give me your ID. They called 911. That’s why I’m here. I was drinking coffee.”
“You look kind of drunk,” the man says.
“Pardon me? Pardon me?” Harris says, walking closer to the man.
“I can say whatever I want, pardon you. You look like you’re shaking, your lips are quivering and you’re slurring your words,” the man responds. “That’s what I’m saying.”
“Would you like to speak with my supervisor?” Harris says.
“Yes, I would like to speak with your slurry, nasty alcohol breath and why you’re slurring your words,” the man says, crossing his arms. “He is drunk. Look at him. Walk a straight line.”
Harris demands the man’s identification two more times before suddenly grabbing him. After Harris apprehends the man, it is difficult to make out what happens from his body camera video.
In Cook’s body camera video, during a struggle, Harris appears to strike the man in the face with a closed fist after shouting, “Don’t bite me!” Harris can also be heard shouting that the man bites him in his body camera video.
Once backup officers arrive and bring the man to the ground, Harris can be seen pressing two hands against the back of the man's head.
“Get off me asshole. Stop putting pressure on me,” the alleged victim says.
Throughout the arrest, Officer Cook can be heard calmly telling the man to “just relax."
The alleged victim continues to accuse Harris of slurring his words and being a “drunk piece of shit” as Harris leads him to a police vehicle. “Welcome to my car," Harris says, before placing the man in the vehicle. Harris tells the man to put his foot in the car and slams the door.
Sgt. Gary Nelson investigated the alleged assault on the recommendation of the Office of Police Accountability (OPA), SPD’s unit for internal investigations. A commanding officer reported Harris’ alleged assault to OPA.
In an affidavit, Nelson wrote that the two officers responded to a “disturbance” outside the church. Two witnesses said that the man was a regular at the church for three years and often charges his phone using an outdoor outlet near the property. One of the witnesses said they called 911 on the man because he feared the man could be a danger to himself and was scaring away other clients.
Harris wrote in a police report that the witnesses claimed the man “menaced” them in a “threatening manner,” but they disputed that characterization in an interview with Nelson.
Nelson also determined that there was no evidence to suggest that Harris was intoxicated during the arrest. SPD policy prohibits officers from reporting to duty or wearing a police uniform under the influence of alcohol. The SPD manual outlines protocol to test officers for impairment, saying that any sergeant or non-sworn supervisor is to notify a lieutenant if they suspect a SPD employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The lieutenant then arranges for field sobriety and breathalyzer test.
A SPD spokesperson did not immediately respond to request for comment.