SEATTLE – Seattle is paying $100,000 to a University of Washington geography student who suffered broken bones in his face when he was arrested in 2012.
David Pontecorvo said he was pulled off his front porch by officers and beaten with fists, batons and a flashlight because he was videotaping as they arrested one of his friends during a party, The Seattle Times reported (http://is.gd/jTbWnH). He underwent surgery in June to repair his damaged sinuses, his lawyer said.
The police responded to a noise complaint at Pontecorvo's West Seattle home early on Sept. 22, 2012, and the partyers turned down the music. But as officers were leaving, someone turned it back up. The police returned and arrested one of the people in the house.
Pontecorvo, then 19, and another friend began recording the arrest on their cellphones. Pontecorvo was inside the house filming the action on his front porch when an officer, identified as Christine Nichols, told him he was going to be arrested for "obstructing."
The shaky video shows Nichols pushing him toward the stairs. The pair move off-camera, and another officer is heard yelling, "I'm coming, Christine!"
Pontecorvo is then heard yelling that he's not resisting and asking why the officers are using force: "I'm not doing anything wrong! I'm not resisting! Why are you doing this?!"
According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, Pontecorvo said that at the bottom of the stairs he was grabbed by Officer Michael Renner, who took him to the ground. Renner, Nichols, Sgt. Joseph Maccarrone, Alvaro Ferreira and others beat him, the lawsuit alleged.
Medics who examined him at the West Precinct said he needed to go to the hospital. He was treated in the emergency room for a broken nose, a broken cheekbone and other injuries, and then transported to jail, where he spent the weekend, said his attorney, Daniel Fjelstad.
Pontecorvo was never charged, according to the lawsuit.
Court records show Renner and Maccarrone were defendants in a 2008 lawsuit filed by Eric Garcia-Arcos, who claimed he was beaten, shocked with a Taser and illegally arrested after a noise complaint in 2006. Garcia-Arcos suffered fractures to two vertebrae, two ribs and lacerations that required stitches, according to court documents. The city paid $85,000 to settle that lawsuit, according to court records and the City Attorney's Office.
Pierce Murphy, the civilian director of the police department's Office of Professional Accountability, said the office never received a complaint about the Pontecorvo incident. None of the officers was disciplined.
The case would have been handled differently under police reforms occasioned by the U.S. Justice Department's investigation of the Seattle Police Department, which found officers routinely used excessive force. The department's Force Review Board is now required to look at any instance when a suspect is injured, and a force investigation team would respond to any incident with serious injuries or when so-called "impact weapons" like batons or flashlights were used.
Murphy also said that under recently initiated protocols between his office and the City Attorney's Office, he is notified when officers are named in civil complaints or lawsuits, and he can decide unilaterally whether to open an investigation. In the past, the Office of Professional Accountability was not notified when an officer was sued.
Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com