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Originally published June 4, 2012 at 6:39 PM | Page modified June 5, 2012 at 1:06 PM

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Police official pleads not guilty to domestic violence in Seattle

Donnie R. Lowe, a police lieutenant who had been serving as an acting captain, has been removed as a team leader helping to reform the Seattle Police Department in the wake of a federal investigation. He pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of domestic-violence assault.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A Seattle police lieutenant pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of domestic-violence assault Monday, one day after his arrest led to his removal from his role as a team leader in the city's plan to reform the Police Department in response to a federal investigation.

Donnie R. Lowe, 45, who had been serving as an acting captain before his arrest, was ordered held in lieu of $7,500 bail. King County Jail records showed he was no longer in custody later in the day.

The City Attorney's Office filed the criminal charge Monday, which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail.

Seattle police acknowledged Monday that in light of the criminal case, Lowe was not the right person to be chosen for the reform effort.

At a brief hearing at the jail, Seattle Municipal Court Judge Willie J. Gregory said Lowe is alleged to have pushed his wife against a wall and slapped her face during an argument over their son. A responding police officer reported smelling the odor of alcohol on Lowe and that his wife was crying and upset, Gregory said.

Gregory ordered Lowe to stay away from his wife under a no-contact order.

The alleged incident occurred late Saturday in the South Seattle home of the couple, who have been married for 10 years and have two children, according to a probable-cause document filed on Monday.

Lowe's wife called 911 to report that he had assaulted her, according to a Police Department report released Monday.

But she refused medical treatment, wouldn't give a statement and told an officer, "I don't want him to go to jail," the report said. She also declined assistance from a victim-support team, according to the report.

Five witnesses, mostly relatives, refused to provide written statements after implicating Lowe, the report said.

After the court hearing, Lowe's attorney, John Henry Browne, said Lowe's wife, who attended the court hearing, has related to authorities that she does not want her husband to be prosecuted and that she does not fear him or want a no-contact order, Browne said.

She also declined to be photographed after the incident, Browne said.

Lowe and witnesses deny the allegations, Browne said, adding that Lowe will stay with his brother in light of the judge's no-contact order.

Lowe, who was booked into jail early Sunday, was one of 32 sworn and civilian members in the department assigned to carry out the city's so-called "20/20" plan, created after the Justice Department found in December that Seattle police too often use excessive force and show evidence of biased policing against minorities.

City officials and federal attorneys are seeking to reach a mutually approved consent decree to avoid a lawsuit against the city that could force changes.

In his role, Lowe was put in charge of a small, second-level group assigned to deal with leadership aspects of the plan, which calls for 20 initiatives in 20 months.

He was chosen because he was deemed to have the credentials and skills, including a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Washington, as well as a master's in public administration from the school, Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, the department's chief spokesman, said Monday.

"In hindsight, it wasn't an appropriate fit," Whitcomb said of Lowe's selection to serve on the "20/20" team and his quick removal.

Lowe, a 20-year veteran, was last disciplined over an arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence in 2008, Whitcomb said.

Lowe pleaded guilty to an amended charge of reckless driving, later dismissed when he met court conditions.

As a result, the department suspended him for four days without pay after an internal investigation.

Lowe also received internal reprimands for inappropriate physical treatment of his handcuffed son while he was in police custody in a holding cell in 2006, and over his improper effort to retrieve from a man nude photographs of a female relative in 2002.

In the current case, Lowe, who works in the department's Homeland Security unit, has been relieved of duty. Police took his badge and two handguns, including his service weapon, at his home Saturday night, according to the police report.

Lowe appeared calm when an officer arrived, the report said. He directed the officer downstairs to his wife, according to the report.

While arguing, she reported, Lowe pushed her against a wall with his left arm across her upper chest, and slapped her face with his open right hand, the report said.

Her face, neck and upper chest had a "reddish coloration," but it was unclear if that was from an injury or her crying, the officer wrote.

One witness, her brother, told police he pulled her away from Lowe because the argument was "getting heated," according to the report. Another of her brothers told police he assisted in breaking the two apart, while a third brother reported he helped separate the couple and that he was "holding Donnie back," the report said.

Her sister told police that Lowe pushed his wife against a wall with his forearm under her chin and slapped her face, according to the report.

A fifth witness, whose relationship to the wife wasn't determined, said Lowe placed his forearm under his wife's throat and slapped her face, the report said.

At the request of Seattle police, the King County Sheriff's Office has agreed to conduct the criminal investigation.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included

in this report.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com

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