Seattle police release dash cam video of man's alleged beating

SEATTLE -- Seattle police have released dash cam video of officers detaining a man who has sued the department alleging excessive use of force.

Police publicly released the video Tuesday after Leo Etherly and his attorneys alleged Seattle police were trying to keep the footage hidden from the public.

Etherly was bruised and black-eyed during his Oct. 6. arrest in connection with a hit-and-run crash involving a bicyclist several blocks away.

Seattle police told KOMO News Etherly was uncooperative and spat on the arresting officer; however, King County prosecutors have declined to file charges.

Etherly said he was first choked then knocked out while being detained by three police officers, first on the hood of a patrol car and later on the ground.

"Mr. Etherly was really injured from this. He has permanent partial blindness. He has split vision -- double vision, which will probably be permanent," said his attorney, James Egan.

First amendment attorney Jim Lobsenz, who is also representing Etherly, said the footage "clearly shows (officers) choking and punching (Etherly) for no reason."

But Seattle police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said the officers use of force was in response to the man's resistance.

"The officer's trying to have a physical control over the man's arm, but he doesn't want to be held by the officer," he said. "They made efforts to use a minimal, very unintrusive amount of force to de-escalate the situation, to calm things down."

Etherly, on the other hand, was acting aggressively, Whitcomb said.

"Ultimately, you may as well punch someone if you spit on them," he said. "And the idea is it's assaultive behavior to officers who are doing their job, who are trying to place someone in custody."

Prosecutors have declined to file charges against Etherly in both the hit-and-run case and the alleged assault case involving Etherly spitting on the officer.

Whitcomb said the department's Office of Professional Accountability is reviewing the use of force in the incident, including the officer's placement of his hand on the detained man's neck.

Prior to its release on Tuesday, Etherly and his attorneys claimed police were trying to hide dash cam footage of the incident after police failed to respond to Etherly's Oct. 10 request to obtain a copy of it. He has a right to request that footage under the city's own policy, which states "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."

One of Etherly's attorneys had been given a copy, but Seattle police warned Egan not to share it publicly as doing so could cost him his license.

Late Monday, Seattle police released a brief statement stating Egan had already received a copy of the footage for his own use, but will get another copy through the Public Records Act when the department's process is completed.