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OPA Case Review: Aug. 2, 2023
East Precinct cop Tasers woman in crisis
OPA sustained de-escalation findings against Officer Yosef Al-Hanaya for an incident where he Tasered a woman experiencing a mental health crisis. Al-Hanaya and other officers responded to a call about a woman setting things on fire and throwing them off her balcony. When the officers entered, the woman retreated to her bathroom.
She threw a glass mirror at the officers and swung a belt at the door, which was partially open. Al-Hanaya kicked the door and fired his Taser at the woman. Though OPA described it as a “close call,” the agency ultimately argued that the use of the Taser was justified but found that Al-Hanaya violated the department’s de-escalation policy, which mandates the use of time, shielding and distance when “safe and feasible,” by failing to distance and “shield himself from [the woman’s] actions.”
OPA faulted the officer for not positioning himself far from the doorway and attempting to talk the woman into coming out. Al-Hanaya was “not required to maintain that position, nor was it prudent for him to do so.”
Notably, there was a dispute within Al-Hanaya’s chain of command. Watch Lieutenant Rolf Towne, the complainant in this case, thought the officer’s use of force itself was unjustified because the woman was of “slight stature,” and the officers had not exhausted all potential opportunities to resolve the issue without force. Precinct Captain Eric Sano disagreed, claiming there was exigency because the woman could potentially have something flammable.
Towne also observed several other potential policy violations in his complaint. He noted that the exigency pretext for a warrantless entry was to check for active fires. Once the officers entered the department and confirmed there was no fire, the exigency ended, Towne argued, and the officers should’ve retreated. Sgt. Christopher Couet was reprimanded for supervisory failures in his management of the scene.
The lieutenant also observed that Al-Hanaya unnecessarily drove 54 mph (twice the posted speed limit of most Seattle arterials) while heading to the call. That was handled as a supervisor action. Al-Hanaya was given an oral reprimand. Hired in 2020, Al-Hanaya shot and wounded a man who had been firing off a rifle in an apartment complex last April.
Juvenile suspect questioned without Miranda warning
Officers Sgt. Nathan Patterson, Cody Adilon, and Mark Rawlins were reprimanded over an incident where they detained and interrogated a 13-year-old Black youth suspected of committing a burglary two weeks earlier. Patterson and his subordinates held and questioned the teen for more than 30 minutes without issuing a Miranda warning, even though the suspect in the burglary was described as a male in his mid-30s.
Department policy requires officers to issue Miranda warnings when a person is arrested or subjected to a custodial interrogation, which refers to questioning that occurs when a person is arrested or “otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.” OPA argued that the “circumstances [the] 13-year-old [child] faced established he was not free to leave.”
Furthermore, Patterson, the supervisor on scene, failed to complete a Terry stop template or investigate whether the teen matched the burglary suspect's description. The OPA concluded: “A simple search would have flagged an 18-year age gap between the described November 4th offender and CM#3 rather than subjecting CM#3 to what most adults, let alone a 13-years old, would find to be a terrifying experience.”
Sgt. Patterson was the subject of a viral video in which he was recorded punching a man in the face multiple times during the 2020 protests. He has been named in at least six lawsuits and fatally shot an elderly Black man with Alzheimer’s during a welfare check in 2012.
Retraining for officer who tackled a surrendering suspect
The OPA issued a training referral to Officer Stephen Englund for tackling a suspect who was surrendering. Englund and another officer attempted to arrest the man on an out-of-state warrant for a parole violation, but he fled, leading to a foot pursuit.
When Englund caught up to the suspect, he drew his Taser, arced it, and gave a verbal warning, causing the man to stop and surrender with his arms raised. Englund tackled him in the legs using a trained “double-leg takedown” technique.
OPA determined using force was unnecessary because the man stopped and held his hands high, the “universal sign of surrendering.” Englund argued that this could’ve been a “fake out.” The OPA maintained that the force was out of policy but not wilful, writing that Englund’s actions were “best categorized as miscalculated rather than misconduct.”
Englund was hired in 2019 and has had three sustained complaints in the last three years. He was previously reprimanded for misuse of discretion and unprofessionalism and suspended for one day for failure to de-escalate.
Officer grabbed woman by the hair, thought it was okay
In December 2022, Officer Eric Michl investigated a single-car crash off-road and suspected the woman driving was intoxicated. She was initially compliant and began undergoing the field sobriety test. However, she stopped midway and demanded a lawyer. Michl ascertained that he had probable cause to arrest her for DUI and began to guide her toward the police cruiser.
The woman pulled away from him and called him names but wasn’t significantly resisting. When he placed her into the cruiser, Michl grabbed the woman by the back of her hair and pushed her in.
Michl, who joined the department more than 40 years ago, told OPA that he learned the hair-hold technique in the police academy in 1984. OPA noted that while SPD “stopped training that tactic about 20 years ago, the policy does not prohibit it.”
While the OPA found that a low level of force was “objectively reasonable” to get the woman into the car, the agency questioned whether it was necessary or proportional, pointing out that the woman repeatedly said she would comply with another officer, which presented a “reasonably effective alternative to using force.” OPA argued that nothing was stopping him from allowing another officer to take over.
Moreover, OPA pointed out the woman posed no threat before he grabbed her hair, but she did kick at him afterward. Ultimately, the OPA issued an “inconclusive” finding.
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