Seattle reporter claims police harassed, threatened him

SEATTLE - King County Sheriff John Urquhart put one of his sergeants on paid leave this week for allegedly threatening a local news reporter.

Dominic Holden said he was just doing his job last week when he stopped to take pictures of Seattle police officers and a sheriff's sergeant as they questioned a man in the International District.

Holden, who is the news editor at The Stranger, said sergeant Casey Saulet didn't want him there.

"Sergeant Saulet then said that I needed to leave the entire block or I would be arrested," Holden said.

Holden said other people were even closer to the officers, who by then had released the man they were questioning. Despite being roughly 20 feet away from the officers, Holden said Saulet still ordered him to cross the street.

"This is the type of comparatively low-level interaction that I believe ultimately deteriorates trust in our law enforcement," Holden said.

Sheriff's department officials say there is nothing illegal about taking photos of police activity on public property.

"As long as they are not directly interfering with an investigation, they have a right to stand there and video tape or take photos," said Cindi West with the King County sheriff's office

Holden crossed the street, but he said the confrontation didn't end there. When he asked for the commanding officer's name, Holden said Seattle police officer John Marion tried to intimidate him.

"At that point the officer asked where I worked, and when I told him he threatened to come bother me at The Stranger. And this is a needless escalation," Holden said.

Holden has filed formal complaints against both agencies, and he said both the Seattle Police Department and the King County Sheriff's Office appear to be taking the investigation seriously.

"The question is whether their good intentions for following up actually result in any sort of discipline for the officers. That remains to be seen," he said.

Officer Marion is under investigation, but remains on the job. Saulet is on paid leave until his investigation is complete.

Interim Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel issued the following statement about the incident:

"I am aware of the article by Mr. Holden in the Stranger Slog documenting the allegation of rudeness by one of my police officers.

"Once we learned of the incident the department immediately referred the complaint to the Office of Professional Accountability. I have discussed it with OPA Director Pierce Murphy.

"While I cannot comment on the specific complaint, the allegation, if true, does not match what the department teaches in our LEED (Listen and Explain with Equity and Dignity) training, nor with the four cornerstones of my administration which are 'Excellence, Justice, Humility and Harm Reduction.'

"I have known Mr. Holden personally for many years, have regular communications with him and have assured him that we will get to the truth."

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that officials from the Seattle Police Department would not comment on the story.