City settles suit over police actions at Columbia City party
Seattle police have settled a lawsuit filed after a melee broke out at a Columbia City housewarming party where an officer used a garden shovel as a weapon.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The city has agreed to pay $195,000 to settle a federal civil-rights lawsuit filed by five people who claimed Seattle police roughed them up at a rowdy 2011 Columbia City housewarming party in which one officer reportedly waded into a crowd swinging a garden shovel, gashing a man’s head.
Three of the partygoers were arrested and spent three days in jail while a detective attempted to “rush-file” felony-assault charges against them. In seeking the charges, one of the officers, David Bauer, wrote that he was the victim of an assault by a partygoer who swung a shovel at him.
The charges were never filed after the King County Prosecutor’s Office identified “evidence problems.”
“Officer Bauer’s written statement and statements by the other officers do not mention that Officer Bauer ever wielded the shovel, whether offensively or defensively,” wrote Deputy Prosecutor William Doyle. “In his in-car video from that night, Bauer acknowledges to one of the arrested partygoers that he took possession of the shovel, after it has been used against him, and ‘started using it back.’ ”
Attorney David Whedbee, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the partygoers, said that the use of the shovel amounted to deadly force and should have been reported. The lawsuit named as defendants Bauer and eight other Seattle police officers.
The lawsuit was settled before the city filed any motions or attempted to dismiss the claim, which is rare in federal civil-rights claims. Kimberly Mills, a spokeswoman with the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, confirmed the settlement and said the office had no other comment.
Police were dispatched to the home on South Dakota Street to reports of a loud party and music. According to reports, they arrived to find a blaring stereo, fireworks and a crowd of 30 to 40 people. The officers asked to speak to the homeowner and entered the home’s backyard without a warrant, according to the complaints.
It says the music was turned down and the officers were asked to leave, but refused.
According to the complaint, the officers said they suspected underage drinking and checked identification, but that all of the drinking guests were over 21. When the homeowner agreed to meet the officers in the front yard to talk about the loud music, he was arrested for obstruction when he came outside.
His arrest sparked an angry reaction from the partygoers, according to the complaint. Police reported that bottles were being thrown and that the crowd was rowdy and uncooperative.
At one point, a police officer was recorded taunting, “Come on (expletive deleted), let’s do this!” and, according to the complaint, several officers entered the yard and engaged crowd members. Bauer reportedly used the shovel to push people into the yard and then began swinging it.
One plaintiff suffered a gash after being struck in the head, the complaint alleges. Hospital records show it took several staples to close the wound, the complaint says.
Another plaintiff said she was hit in the back with the blunt end of the shovel after being knocked to the ground.
Bauer and another of the officers named in the lawsuit, Lindsay Brown, were also defendants in another lawsuit, which the city settled for $25,000 in February, stemming from the violent arrest of a cleaning crew in 2010 outside a Seattle Viking Bank on First Avenue.
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or firstname.lastname@example.org