Seattle police lieutenant faces new criminal investigation
The King County Sheriff's Office is investigating whether Donnie R. Lowe violated a no-contact order in a domestic-assault case involving his wife
Seattle Times staff reporter
A Seattle police lieutenant who was quickly removed as a leader in the city's police-reform plan after his June arrest in a domestic-violence case is under criminal investigation again for allegedly being in the company of his wife — the purported victim — despite a judge's no-contact order.
Donnie R. Lowe, who has a troubled history in the department, was stopped by Seattle police for allegedly talking on his cellphone while driving in the 9600 block of 51st Avenue South about 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to the sources briefed on the matter.
His wife was believed to be a passenger in the car, but Lowe was not immediately arrested because police were not able to verify the court order due to a computer problem, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Lowe, 45, who joined the department in 1992, told police the woman was a relative, one of the sources said.
Lowe's wife, Nanette Lowe, told The Seattle Times on Saturday night, "That was not me in the car." She said the passenger was her 16-year-old niece. She said she was at work at the time and that it could be verified.
Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, spokesman for the Seattle Police Department, said a case involving a department employee had been referred to the King County Sheriff's Office for a criminal investigation.
Whitcomb said he couldn't provide details because another agency is handling the investigation. He declined to name the employee, saying the department does so only when an employee is arrested or booked into jail.
Whitcomb provided his answers in response to a Times inquiry about a traffic stop involving Lowe.
Sgt. Katie Larson, spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, said her office received the referral on Friday and that it had been assigned to a detective. She said she couldn't comment further because the case was an open and active investigation.
It was the Sheriff's Office that conducted the investigation of the June domestic-violence case at the request of Seattle police to avoid a conflict of interest.
Violation of a no-contact order is generally a misdemeanor unless there are multiple violations.
Lowe's attorney, Colleen Hartl, said Friday that she had no information on the traffic stop.
Lowe is awaiting trial in September on a misdemeanor charge of domestic-violence assault, alleged to have occurred on June 2. He pleaded not guilty to the charge, which is punishable by up to one year in jail, and posted bail.
A day after his arrest in that case, he was removed as a team leader in the city's much-touted plan to reform the Police Department. Unveiled in March, the so-called "20/20" plan — 20 initiatives over 20 months — was drafted in response to a federal civil-rights investigation alleging Seattle officers too often use excessive force.
Since then, the city and U.S. Department of Justice reached a comprehensive settlement agreement last month in which a court-appointed monitor will oversee broad reforms.
At a court hearing in June, a judge said Lowe allegedly 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, said the judge, who issued a no-contact order barring Lowe from being around his wife.
The order was later modified to allow Lowe to see her in some matters involving their children and carry on email discussion about finances, court records show.
In the June 2 incident, Lowe's wife phoned 911 to report he had assaulted her, according to a Police Department report. 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.
John Henry Browne, whose law office is representing Lowe, said immediately after the court hearing that Lowe's wife had related to authorities she does not want her husband to be prosecuted and she does not fear him or want a no-contact order.
Lowe and witnesses deny the domestic-violence allegations, Browne said.
Lowe, who works in the department's Homeland Security unit, was relieved of duty and put on paid leave after the arrest. Police took his badge and two handguns, including his service weapon, at his home, according to the police report.
Lowe was previously disciplined after he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in 2008. He pleaded guilty to an amended charge of reckless driving, later dismissed when he met court conditions. The department then suspended him for four days without pay after an internal investigation.
That arrest attracted attention because Lowe was allowed to supervise a Seattle police security detail at President Obama's inauguration in January 2009, even though the arrest had taken place Nov. 23, 2008.
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 an improper effort to retrieve from a man nude photographs of a female acquaintance in 2002.
Seattle Times reporter Jennifer Sullivan and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story, which contains information from Times archives.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org