Tukwila police agree to pay $22,500 in pepper-spray settlement
Alex Day, whom Tukwila has agreed to pay $22,500 to settle a civil-rights lawsuit, alleged he was pepper-sprayed and handcuffed by a police officer after he was arrested while attending an illegal street race in 2008.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Tukwila has agreed to pay $22,500 to settle a civil-rights lawsuit by a man who alleged he was pepper-sprayed, handcuffed and left to sit in agony by a police officer who, three years ago, was involved in a Taser incident that resulted in the city paying $12,500 to settle another lawsuit.
Alex Day, who was 19 at the time, was arrested on July 8, 2008, for obstructing a police officer after he and a friend attended an illegal street race near the West Valley Highway. His attorneys, Jay Krulewitch and Michael Kolker, say Day and two friends attempted to hide atop a large truck in the area when police responded to break up the races. Day was a witness, not a participant, and had not broken any laws, the lawyers claimed.
Police called in a K-9 and located the men a few minutes later, according to court documents. One of the officers, Josh Vivet, ordered the men down off the truck; however, Day said he was afraid of the dog, the documents say.
Eventually, Day said, he climbed down off the truck after he and Vivet traded words. He claimed that, as he was climbing down, Vivet grabbed him, sprayed him directly in the face with pepper spray, and then ordered him to the ground and handcuffed him.
Day claims Vivet left the pepper spray on his face for hours despite repeated requests for water or a wet cloth to wipe it off. The court pleadings indicate that it is Tukwila Police Department policy to render aid as soon as possible to individuals who have been pepper-sprayed.
Vivet, however, said in a sworn deposition that he has used pepper spray on suspects more than 20 times and has never provided them with water or other means to flush the burning spray out of their eyes and off their faces.
According to the documents, Day spent nearly four hours in a holding cell before he was transported to the King County Jail and booked on the misdemeanor charges, which were later dismissed.
Vivet was one of two officers who, in 2006, simultaneously zapped a homeless felon with two Tasers, sending 100,000 volts through him and knocking him to the ground. Then both officers zapped him again.
A federal judge ruled the incident amounted to excessive force, and Terrance Releford, who represented himself in federal court, was given $12,500 to settle his lawsuit in 2009.
According to pleadings in the case, Releford found himself between two officers, both of whom were giving him conflicting orders. When he didn't respond, they both Tased him at the same time.
Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the Tukwila Police Department, said both incidents were investigated internally and "both investigations concluded the officers did effect the arrests properly."
"In settling these cases, we made a business decision to no longer engage in a costly court battle," Murphy said. "We maintain that our officers resolved these arrests by using reasonable force to overcome resistance."
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or email@example.com