City pays $1.75 million to settle lawsuit over violent SPD arrest

SEATTLE -- In the same week it paid out one of the largest monetary settlements in Seattle history, the city continues to insist its police officers did nothing wrong during a violent arrest that left a man brain damaged.

The case involved a man with schizophrenia who was in a mental crisis when police arrived. The unfortunate way the episode ended seems to justify the Justice Department's findings that Seattle police officers routinely use excessive force.

Despite receiving a near-record settlement of $1.75 million, the family of Brian Torgerson feels little comfort this week.

Torgerson's dad asked police to go to his son's First Hill apartment in May 2010 after Torgerson allegedly assaulted him the night before.

Officers say Torgerson, who is schizophrenic, struggled during his arrest, so they held him down with their knees in the hallway and gagged him with a spit sock.

Torgerson's parents say he was repeatedly punched and Tased during the arrest. While handcuffed and gagged, Torgerson choked on his own blood and vomited in the mask.

His parents say the violent incident left Torgerson severely brain damaged.

"He seemed to be almost limp and he was actually pleading for help at the time he was being compressed to the ground," said family attorney Ed Budge.

Budge said the way the officers handled the aftermath of the incident was something approaching a cover up.

"Not only was there no discipline, there was almost nothing in the way of a true investigation by the Seattle Police Department," he said.

The family filed a civil rights lawsuit, and this week the city settled for $1.75 million.

But the city still contends its officers "lawfully arrested Torgerson" and that his injuries were an "unfortunate consequence of his own actions."

"According to some police officers he was resisting," Budge said. "According to the eye witnesses he was definitely not resisting."

The settlement comes as Seattle police are under federal monitoring after the Justice Department determined officers routinely used excessive force and escalated minor incidents into physical confrontations.

"What I also hope happens is that the Seattle Police Department takes a look at the facts of this case and decides that what happened should not happen again," Budge said.

Torgerson's settlement is the largest in recent memory from Seattle. The city paid $1.5 million to the family of John T. Williams, who was shot and killed by an officer in 2010.