Seattle PD Reluctant to Release Video of Beating

SPD Hiding Video of Beating /Choking Causing Partial Blindness

Seattle area lawyers say video of an alleged beating by a Seattle police officer is so explosive that if released, it would immediately go viral.

They claim that is the reason Seattle police are keeping the video hidden from public view. As a result, they and their client are suing the department.

Back in October, Leo Etherly was bruised and black-eyed. As for how he got that way, a Seattle police dash cam video could tell that story. Except police won’t allow Etherly to have a copy, and they won’t allow Etherly’s attorney to share his copy with the public.

Here’s how Etherly tells it: “I was motionless, and he (the officer) was still punching me and says something to the effect of, ‘You effing idiot.'”

Witness video shows Etherly’s face after he is already handcuffed on the ground.

More Brutality from Seattle’s Finest

Store surveillance video indistinctly shows Etherly on the hood of a police cruiser.

“At that point, (the officer) throws a tremendously fast fist to Leo Etherly’s eye, causing permanent partial blindness,” said attorney James Egan.

But the best video of Etherly’s Oct. 6 arrest would be from the police officer’s own dashboard camera.

Etherly says he was first choked then knocked out, and didn’t realize the extent of what happened until he saw the dash cam video.

“When it happened, I understood I got mistreated. But when I seen it, it hit me. It really hit me like, ‘Wow!”‘ he said.

“Clearly shows choking and punching for no reason,” said First Amendment attorney Jim Lobsenz, who is also representing Etherly. “It’s not exactly in the same realm as the Rodney King beating, which went on and on and on, but it’s bad.”

As Etherly’s defense attorney, Egan has obtained the dash cam video. But the attorney can’t share that footage as the SPD has warned him it could cost him his license. And police will not allow Etherly to have a copy.

“You don’t maintain public trust by doing what the police chief is doing, which is hiding this video,” said Egan.

Etherly was stopped in connection with a hit-and-run crash several blocks away. Seattle police told KOMO News Etherly was uncooperative and spat on the arresting officers; however, King County prosecutors have declined to file any charges.

So nearly seven weeks after the incident, why can’t Etherly get a public copy of his own dash cam video?

Even the city’s own policy says, “…any person who is shown in police dash camera video has an absolute right to request and receive video depicting their incident at any time.”

Lobsenz says the city is stalling.

“They don’t want this video to get to you guys,” he said.

Etherly says his video needs to be made public.

“‘Cause it needs to stop,” he said. “I could have been dead.”

Late Monday afternoon, Seattle police released a brief statement saying that Egan has already received a copy of the dash cam video, but will get another copy through the Public Records Act when the department’s process is completed.

Yet despite KOMO’s questions, SPD made no mention of the restrictions on the 1st video or when this 2nd video would be released.


After weeks of requests, the Seattle Police Department released video of a rough October 6 arrest in the parking lot of the Midtown Center at 23rd and Union.

As we reported previously, the arrest left Leo Etherly with a bloodied face and shook the neighbors and workers who witnessed the incident. Dashboard video of the incident clearly shows the arrest, including a strike from Officer Eric Faust to Etherly’s face that sent Etherly to the hospital.

Screen capture from SPD dash video

Etherly was arrested on investigation of hit-and-run and assaulting a police officer, though both charges were quickly dropped.


The charges were referred to King County, which refused to pursue them. There is still a chance Etherly could be charged in Seattle Municipal Court, says SPD.

The video was not released until Etherly’s attorney James Egan filed a lawsuit alleging that the Department was illegally withholding the video.

SPD launched an investigation into “a particular force tactic” used by Officer Faust.

Shortly after the incident, CDNews spoke with several people who work or live in the area and saw what happened. They voiced concern that the force was not called for, and that the incident reinforces feelings of injustice between people of color in the neighborhood and the police department.

Officer Faust stopped this car rolling down Jackson in 2009

Officer Faust was commended with a Medal of Valor in 2009 for stopping an unmanned car rolling down Jackson St after an officer-involved shooting at 20th and Jackson. Coincidentally, Officer Chin, who was also involved in Etherly’s arrest, was accused of using excessive force in the 2009 incident.


SPD has posted video from their media briefing about the video, which includes a narrated version of the video:

One observation which received no commentary, the local residents recoil from the officers, presumably out of fear and disgust. Their behavior in this Black community during the altercation is quite different from those likely to be seen in white/privileged communities.  The press officer for the PD clinically dissects the video events but glosses over the traumatic force initially applied to the suspects neck (strain) and chin. The officer who struck the suspect (partially blinding him) can be seen aggressively and threateningly confronting the suspect, thereby heightening the likelihood of a violent confrontation which the officer’s training, no doubt, recommends as a method of ‘control’.

The lessons from the police academy focus on ‘control’ over psychology. The body English, especially of the assaulting officer, tells much of the story which the narrative attempts to minimize.

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