Tape shows officer kicking, striking teenager
By SCOTT GUTIERREZ
A video showing a King County Sheriff's deputy pummeling a 15-year-old girl in a holding cell was released Friday over the strenuous objections of the officer's attorney.
The case goes beyond police misconduct, County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said in a prepared statement.
"It's about criminal misconduct. And that's why he needs to be prosecuted," he said.
The video of the Nov. 29 incident was disclosed Friday, one day after Deputy Paul Schene, 31, pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor assault in King County District Court.
Schene, an eight-year veteran, works out of Precinct 4, which covers SeaTac, Burien and high crime areas in White Center and Skyway.
He is the third sheriff's deputy since 2006 to face charges on allegations of excessive force. All three are from the Burien precinct.
A detective assigned to the girl's case discovered the video Dec. 1 and immediately forwarded it to supervisors.
The Seattle P-I requested a copy of the holding cell video and all reports from the incident under the state's open records law. A judge on Thursday denied a request from Schene's attorney to bar the video from public disclosure.
"We take this very seriously and we're very concerned about this," sheriff's Sgt. Jim Laing said Friday. An internal investigation would begin after the criminal case is finished.
The girl was arrested after she was caught in her parents' car, which had been reported stolen from her parents' Tukwila home. Deputy Travis Brunner spotted the car driving without headlights about 3:45 a.m. on 32nd Avenue South in SeaTac and pulled it over.
She and another 15-yearold girl were arrested and taken to SeaTac City Hall to be fingerprinted before being transported to the youth detention center.
The P-I is not naming the girl because she is a minor.
The deputies apparently didn't know until later that the girl, who was in the passenger seat, was related to the car's owner.
"We had argued strenuously that the videotape released to the media this morning not be released because it does not tell the whole story of the incident," attorney Anne Bremner said in a statement.
"As we argued to the judge, it will inflame public opinion and will severely impact the deputy's right to a fair trial."
The video shows Schene and Brunner as they escorted the girl into the holding cell. Schene had asked her to remove her basketball shoes, and, as she slipped out of her left shoe, she appeared to kick it at Schene.
Schene then lunged through the door and kicked her, striking either her stomach or upper thigh area, court documents say. He pushed her against a corner wall before flinging her to the floor by her hair. He then squatted down on her and made "two overhead strikes," although it's unclear where the blows landed.
The detective who reviewed the video said it appeared Schene and Brunner had the girl under control when Schene struck her. Schene, who is 6 feet 2 and weighs 195 pounds, did not explain his action to investigators, court documents say.
He and the girl exchanged words. Brunner said she was "real lippy" after being informed she was under arrest and called them "fat pigs."
The Sheriff's Office policy manual says deputies should use physical or deadly force only when "necessary to effect an arrest, to defend themselves or others from violence, or to otherwise accomplish police duties according to law."
Schene could face up to a year in jail if convicted. He has been on administrative leave since early December.
The girl said that she couldn't breathe after the incident, prompting the deputies to call paramedics.
Paramedics decided that she didn't require hospitalization. Felony charges require proof of serious injury.
"If the matter were to go to trial, he could face additional charges," said Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff in the Prosecutor's Office.
In his own report from the incident, Schene wrote that the shoe hit him in the right shin, "causing injury and pain." He wrote that he "placed" her into handcuffs and that she needed medical attention for a "panic attack."
He said a "blood filled pocket" formed on his shin, requiring treatment at Auburn General Hospital, according to his report. The video, however, appears to show his shin strike a metal toilet as he pushes the girl against the wall.
The girl told investigators that she didn't intend for the shoe to hit him, court documents say.
Schene had previously been in the news in 2006 after he fatally shot Pedro Jo, a mentally ill man, during a struggle after a traffic stop on Interstate 5. It was the second officer-involved shooting of his career.
An inquest jury ruled the shooting was justified. Jo viciously attacked Schene, trying to strangle him with his own radio cord.
Jo then ran back to his car and disobeyed Schene's orders to stop. Schene said he saw Jo reach for something in the seat, so Schene fired 11 times after Jo ran back to his car.
Shortly after the shooting while on administrative leave, Schene was stopped for driving under the influence.
He had been drinking and taking prescription medication, according to court records. He received a deferred sentence and was placed on probation, records show.
Schene works in an urban precinct with higher rates of violent crime and gang activity than other precincts. Officers assigned there more often report having to use physical force in arrest situations, Laing said.
Schene is the second officer from the precinct in three months to face charges. In addition, a third deputy, Brian Bonnar, was acquitted in January of civil rights violations during a trial in U.S. District Court. Bonnar, who patrolled in the precinct, was accused by other deputies of using excessive force on a woman who'd been restrained after a high-speed pursuit.
Legal costs for Bonnar's private attorneys, David Allen and Todd Maybrown, as well as lawyer costs for other deputies involved, cost the county's insurer $315,000, according to records the P-I obtained.
In December, Deputy Don Griffee was charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly punching a handcuffed male suspect. The state Attorney General's Office is prosecuting the case.
P-I reporter Scott Gutierrez can be reached at 206-903-5396 or firstname.lastname@example.org.