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Updated Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 11:19 PM

Hit-and-run charge refiled in excessive-force case

By Sara Jean Green
Seattle Times staff reporter

A man whose October arrest is under review by the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) for potential excessive use of force was recharged Friday with hit-and-run driving, according to the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.

Leo Etherly is accused of striking a bicyclist, then driving from the scene; he also is accused of driving with a suspended license.

He was originally charged by city attorneys, but those charges were dismissed at the request of the detective in charge of the case. The detective then asked the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to review the case for a possible felony assault charge, alleging Etherly intentionally spit in an officer’s face.

Prosecutors in November determined evidence in the case did not meet the filing standard for a felony charge, and sent it back to city attorneys for a charging decision.

Footage of Etherly’s Oct. 6 arrest in Seattle’s Central District was captured by a patrol car’s dashboard camera.

A police spokesman in November said an arresting officer’s use of force raised concerns with the officer’s acting captain, who referred the incident to OPA investigators within days of Etherly’s arrest. The OPA is still reviewing the incident, another spokesman, Mark Jamieson, said Friday.

The video shows Etherly, 34, resisting being handcuffed; at one point, after he jerks his left hand free, one officer puts his hand to Etherly’s neck and pushes him back onto the hood of a patrol car. After Etherly apparently spits in the officer’s face, the officer punches Etherly in the head and then appears to deliver a second punch after Etherly is taken to the ground.

Etherly’s attorney, James Egan, said Friday that the newly refiled criminal charges against his client have no bearing on the claim he plans to file against the city, contending excessive force was used. A claim is typically a precursor to a lawsuit.

Egan said Etherly is still partially blinded from being struck in the face and has a long recovery ahead of him.

An OPA investigator last week requested an interview with Etherly, but Egan said he turned the sergeant down.

“I don’t have a lot of faith in them as objective investigators,” Egan said of the OPA. “ ... It’s on camera, and the camera doesn’t lie.”

Seattle Times staff reporter Jennifer Sullivan contributed to this report.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com


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