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Updated Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 08:16 PM

Seattle settles suit over violent arrest of man in police foyer

By Mike Carter
Seattle Times staff reporter

The city of Seattle has paid $34,000 to settle a federal civil-rights lawsuit filed by a mentally disturbed man who was beaten with fists, batons, flashlights and shocked with a Taser by Seattle police after he had been mistakenly released from jail.

The videotaped arrest of Daniel Macio Saunders in the foyer of the Police Department's evidence room in Georgetown in June 2009 was among the incidents cited by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington in requesting a Department of Justice civil-rights investigation. The investigation determined that officers routinely used excessive force.

Saunders who has a long felony record, was arrested June 6, 2009, after allegedly breaking into a Rainier Valley church while naked, cutting himself when he crashed through a glass door. He was covered in blood when police arrived, and jail records indicted that Saunders suffered from hepatitis C, a contagious blood-borne illness that resulted in the church having to be treated as a hazardous-waste site during the cleanup.

Saunders alleged that King County mistakenly released him from jail four days later, even though the Prosecutor's Office had filed burglary and other charges against him.

Saunders did not know he was wanted when he showed up at the Georgetown evidence room a day after his release to pick up his belongings.

A police-surveillance camera showed Saunders inside the small foyer when a police officer arrived and tapped on the glass of the door. Saunders got up and walked over and opened the door for the officer, who rushed in and tried to grab Saunders, who backed away.

He was taken to the floor as two more officers quickly followed. For the next three minutes, the video shows the officers struggling with Saunders while they repeatedly hit him with their fists, batons and a flashlight.

The officers, in court documents, said they used a Taser on him at least four times. The video shows him being taken away on a stretcher.

He was treated for bruises, abrasions and a forehead cut that required numerous stitches, Saunders and Andrew Magee, his attorney, said in a 2010 interview.

The actions of the three officers were reviewed by the Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability, and they were exonerated of any wrongdoing. The King County Prosecutor's Office said the violent arrest was justified because the officers claimed Saunders had a screwdriver and "tensed up" when they tackled him and tried to handcuff him.

Saunders, now 50, sued the Police Department and King County in U.S. District Court in 2010. Court records indicate that Saunders suffers from significant mental illness and the court appointed a guardian ad litem to represent his interests, in addition to his civil lawyer.

King County was dismissed from the lawsuit in March, and the settlement with the Seattle police was reached in September. Magee, has filed notice that he intends to appeal the county's dismissal from the lawsuit to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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



The beating of Daniel Macio Saunders was videotaped.




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