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Originally published October 27, 2010 at 10:42 PM | Page modified October 27, 2010 at 11:59 PM

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Man sues Seattle police, county over violent arrest

Police wielded Tasers, flashlights and fists on Daniel Macio Saunders to take him into custody.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A man whose arrest involved the use of Tasers, batons, fists and flashlights has sued the Seattle Police Department and King County, claiming the officers used excess force after county officials mistakenly released him from jail.

The arrest of Daniel Macio Saunders was recorded on videotape at the police department's evidence facility in Georgetown, where Saunders had shown up June 11, 2009, to pick up his belongings after he'd been released from the King County Jail the day before.

What Saunders, 47, didn't know was that the King County Prosecutor's Office had filed burglary and other charges against him before he was released, accusing him of breaking into a Rainier Valley church four days earlier, naked and covered with blood. Prosecutors said the warrant did not arrive at the jail before Saunders' release because of a paperwork mix-up.

When Saunders appeared at the evidence window, the clerk recognized him from a "be on the lookout" alert, and three officers responded to take him into custody.

Saunders is seen on the tape opening the door for one of the officers, who immediately tries to grab him.

Saunders recoils as two other officers enter the foyer, and he is taken hard to the floor, where the officers pile on top of him and are seen striking him repeatedly with batons, flashlights and their fists.

One of the officers deployed a Taser in the painful "touch" mode several times as well, according to reports.

In reports on the incident, the officers claimed Saunders was armed with a screwdriver and that he was struggling to grab at the officers' utility belts. The officers said Saunders refused to obey their commands to show his hands and surrender.

The officers were identified as Domingo Ortiz, Scott Schenck and Albert Elliott.

Saunders, in a November interview with The Seattle Times, said his arms were trapped beneath his body with the weight of the officers on top of him.

He was charged with assaulting an officer; however, the charge was dismissed before trial.

The police department ordered an internal investigation after officials became aware of the tape when it was requested by The Times. The department exonerated all three officers in May.

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The King County Prosecutor's Office also reviewed the case and determined that the officers' actions were justified and did not warrant criminal charges.

Saunders, who has a long criminal record and a history of mental illness, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor vandalism charge in King County Mental Health Court in the church break-in, in which he broke through a sliding-glass door. He was cut and bleeding profusely when police arrived.

Saunders suffers from hepatitis C, a highly contagious blood-borne illness, and the church had to be treated like a hazardous-waste site during the cleanup, according to police reports.

He also pleaded guilty in mental-health court inOctober to a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest where he avoided jail time and received counseling.

Saunders alleges in the lawsuit that the defendants intentionally caused him emotional distress, that he was the victim of assault and battery, false arrest and malicious prosecution. He accuses Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg and his deputies of violating his civil rights.

A telephone message left with Andrew Magee, Saunders' attorney, was not returned Wednesday. An office employee said he was to be in court most of the day.

Deputy King County Prosecutor Kristofer Bundy said he had just been assigned the case.

"I'm not sure I feel comfortable commenting on it, beyond the general statement that these sorts of issues generally involve a claim of immunity," he said.

Under state law, prosecutors cannot be sued for their official actions made in good faith.

The police department's attorney, Karen Cobb of the firm Stafford Frey Cooper, also declined to comment.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com

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