Lawyers: SPD hiding alleged beating video from public

SEATTLE -- Local lawyers say video of an alleged beating by a Seattle police officer is so explosive that if released, it would immediately go viral.

They claim that is the reason Seattle police are keeping the video hidden from public view. As a result, they and their client are suing the department.

Back in October, Leo Etherly was bruised and black-eyed. As for how he got that way, Seattle police dash cam video could tell that story. Except police won't allow Etherly to have a copy, and they won't allow Etherly's attorney to share his copy with the public.

Here's how Etherly tells it: "I was motionless, and he (the officer) was still punching me and says something to the effect of, 'You effing idiot.'"

Witness video shows Etherly's face after he is already handcuffed on the ground.

Store surveillance video indistinctly shows Etherly on the hood of a police cruiser.

"At that point, (the officer) throws a tremendously fast fist to Leo Etherly's eye, causing permanent partial blindness," said attorney James Egan.

But the best video of Etherly's Oct. 6 arrest would be from the police officer's own dashboard camera.

Etherly says he was first choked then knocked out, and didn't realize the extent of what happened until he saw the dash cam video.

"When it happened, I understood I got mistreated. But when I seen it, it hit me. It really hit me like, 'Wow!"' he said.

"Clearly shows choking and punching for no reason," said first amendment attorney Jim Lobsenz, who is also representing Etherly. "It's not exactly in the same realm as the Rodney King beating, which went on and on and on, but it's bad."

As Etherly's defense attorney, Egan has obtained the dash cam video. But the attorney can't share that footage as the SPD has warned him it could cost him his license. And police will not allow Etherly to have a copy.

"You don't maintain public trust by doing what the police chief is doing, which is hiding this video," said Egan.

Etherly was stopped in connection with a hit-and-run crash several blocks away. Seattle police told KOMO News Etherly was uncooperative and spat on the arresting officers; however, King County prosecutors have declined to file any charges.

So nearly seven weeks after the incident, why can't Etherly get a public copy of his own dash cam video?

Even the city's own policy says, "any person who is shown in police dash camera video has an absolute right to request and receive video depicting their incident at any time."

Lobsenz says the city is stalling.

"They don't want this video to get to you guys," he said.

Etherly says his video needs to be made public.

"'Cause it needs to stop," he said. "I could have been dead."

Late Monday afternoon, Seattle police released a brief statement saying that Egan has already received a copy of the dash cam video, but will get another copy through the Public Records Act when the department's process is completed.

In spite of KOMO's questions, SPD made no mention of the restrictions on the first video or when this second video would be released.