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Originally published Monday, December 16, 2013 at 7:03 PM

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SPD hit with a second lawsuit over 2012 May Day arrests

A freelance photographer claims in his lawsuit against the Seattle Police Department that a video shows he never touched the officer who later roughly arrested him over the May Day protests.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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A freelance photographer has sued the Seattle Police Department after he was roughly arrested and charged with assaulting an officer during the 2012 May Day protests.

Joshua “Alex” Garland claims a video posted on YouTube shows he never touched the officer who later claimed Garland grabbed his wrist and twisted during a raucous confrontation between protesters and police near First Avenue and Pike Street.

Garland was one of a handful of people charged with crimes stemming from the 2012 May Day protests. Prosecutors dropped assault charges against him after viewing the video, according to his federal-court lawsuit and other court documents.

Garland’s lawsuit is the second federal civil-rights lawsuit filed against the SPD after the 2012 May Day protests, which devolved into street violence and vandalism as officers struggled with conflicting orders and a lack of resources during the annual march and protests.

According to a later department after-action review of the incident — and a blistering internal memo written by the incident commander — officers on the street were unclear as to when they could use force, and what kind of force would be tolerated.

Garland claims he had been exposed to pepper spray earlier in the protest and had covered his face and nose with a scarf to protect himself.

He claims he was videotaping the arrest of another protester when, without warning, Officer Stephen Smith shoved him back and then “yanked” him out of the crowd, threw him to the ground and with the help of several other officers handcuffed him.

The lawsuit alleges that Smith, in a sworn statement, alleged that Garland grabbed his arm and twisted it — the allegation that led to the criminal charges.

“Smith’s conduct was unlawful, malicious and had no purpose, other than to punish the plaintiff and inflict pain,” according to the complaint.

Kimberly Mills, a spokeswoman for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, which is defending Smith and the Police Department, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Smith was not disciplined, according to the lawsuit.

However, Pierce Murphy, the director of the Office of Professional Accountability, has said in a sworn declaration in another May Day civil-rights lawsuit that none of the individuals who were arrested that day — including Garland — filed formal complaints with the department.

That second lawsuit involves the violent arrest of Maria Morales, an emergency-medical technician who, like Garland, got her assault charges dismissed after video contradicting the officers’ version of events surfaced.

Morales was arrested earlier at the same location by Officer Sonya Fry, who purportedly yanked Morales over a wall of police bicycles and arrested her. Fry has since said she believes Morales had hit her.

Fry was not disciplined. However, training later was recommended for another officer after claiming he accidentally sprayed Morales with pepper spray.

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



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