A 30-year-old protester remained hospitalized in serious condition Thursday, after police moved into a group of demonstrators to make arrests outside the department’s East Precinct on Capitol Hill.
Details about what happened and the protester’s condition were vague. While the city’s Office of Police Accountability said the man had a “medical event” and there’s no indication it was related to police use of force, the protester’s attorney said an officer “slammed” him to the ground and “his head hit the pavement hard.”
Fire crews were “dispatched per request from SPD” and took a person in stable condition to Harborview Medical Center, said Seattle Fire Department spokesperson David Cuerpo.
Cuerpo did not say whether the man was conscious, citing patient privacy.
Harborview spokesperson Susan Gregg said Wednesday night a man was transported to the hospital in critical condition. On Thursday morning, he was in serious condition, Gregg said.
The Seattle Police Department said in an online post early Thursday morning that officers were arresting a person for alleged property damage when the person “appeared to be experiencing a medical issue.”
The department said officers provided medical aid and called for Seattle Fire. SPD’s Force Investigations Team, which reviews certain uses of police force, was reviewing the incident, SPD said.
A small group of protesters marched through Capitol Hill on Wednesday evening as part of a nightly demonstration against police violence and racial injustice. On Thursday, they said officers arrested seven people total throughout the night, alleging crimes including obstruction, property damage, pedestrian interference and assaulting an officer.
Shortly after 10 p.m., people with the group near the precinct began posting to social media about a man on the ground who they said did not appear to be moving after police had arrived in the area and made arrests.
Video showed a fire truck at the scene and dozens of officers in the intersection near the precinct, keeping a group of protesters back.
One video posted online showed police officers on bikes move in on two sides of a group of protesters outside the precinct. At least two people fell to the ground and officers began to make arrests, according to the video. An officer can be heard over a loudspeaker telling people to “back away, we’re making a legal arrest here.”
The man, who’s being represented by Stritmatter Law Firms and Cedar Law PLLC as part of a lawsuit alleging excessive police force at earlier protests, was with other demonstrators near the East Precinct when an officer slammed him to the ground, Stritmatter attorney Karen Koehler said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
“His head hit the pavement hard,” she wrote in the statement, which she said was based on witness reports. “Witnesses heard the crack on impact.”
She added that the person didn’t move after that. Bike officers then “piled” onto him as he was motionless and “face down on the ground,” she wrote.
Officers prevented other protesters from coming to his aid, according to Koehler, and shone lights at them, which they said blocked them from filming the person or seeing what was going on.
The Seattle Fire Department arrived about 15 minutes later, and spent another 15 minutes with the person before taking him to the hospital, the statement said.
“Our legal team is upset and appalled by this incident,” Koehler wrote. “There has been no reassuring news yet from his doctors. On his behalf, we demand immediate answers from the City.”
Office of Police Accountability Director Andrew Myerberg was notified about the incident at midnight and went to the scene, said OPA spokesperson Anne Bettesworth Thursday.
“There is no indication at this point that the medical event was related to the force used by the officers to take the individual into custody,” Bettesworth said in an email, although the OPA is still reviewing officers’ body camera video “to determine whether there is any identifiable misconduct that warrants further investigation.”
Bettesworth said the OPA came to that conclusion based on information from Harborview and body camera video showing the man was “actively moving, including resisting the officers’ attempts to handcuff them, for close to 30 seconds after the takedown, and the lack of any strikes or other hard impacts to the ground during that time.”
“This doesn’t foreclose the possibility that somehow the force caused the medical event, but, given what we know so far, it appears unlikely,” Bettesworth said. The OPA has not received any complaints about the incident but will investigate if the office receives a complaint, she said.
Earlier Wednesday evening, a separate group of protesters marched through Pioneer Square and downtown to call for accountability in vote counting for the presidential election, while another group rallied downtown at Westlake Park.