Sequim chief defends police tactics after video goes viral
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Herbert Price
A screen shot of a video shot by a patron of Oasis Bar and Grill in Sequim shows police subduing a man early Sunday.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Police Chief Bill Dickinson on Monday defended the behavior of his officers outside a Washington Street nightspot after a video of the altercation went viral on the Internet.

The video, which had thousands of views on Facebook, YouTube and at the Peninsula Daily News' website, shows Officer Grant Dennis hitting a man in front of Oasis Bar and Grill, 301 E. Washington St., early Sunday morning.

(SEE VIDEO, BELOW THIS REPORT)

The incident involved four officers, with two holding the man down in a planter box in front of the Oasis while Dennis delivered kidney blows intended to place the man under arrest, according to Dickinson.

“I think people assume the officer is trying to beat this guy up,” Dickinson told reporters at a news conference at police headquarters Monday afternoon.

“The fact is, he was only trying to get the guy to release his arm.”

The man who was hit, whom police did not identify, was not issued a citation.

Dickinson said the man told officers that he had a 7-year-old child who was home alone, so officers drove him home after having him examined by paramedics.

Because there was no citation, City Attorney Craig Ritchie redacted the man's identifying information from police reports obtained by the Peninsula Daily News through a public-records request.

Attempts to contact a person who eyewitnesses said was the man featured in the video were not returned.

Dickinson said the man likely will be cited for resisting arrest and for assaulting another patron of the Oasis, which featured a punk-rock concert Saturday night.

The department is investigating the case to determine if officers acted properly, Dickinson said.

The officers all are still on patrol.

“In this case, clearly, they were just trying to place him under arrest,” Dickinson said.

He said they used a proper amount of force in trying to subdue their suspect.

“You can use that amount of force necessary to make the arrest,” Dickinson said when asked about the department's policies on force.

Dale Dunning, owner of the Oasis, and James Finnen, a witness from inside the tavern, said there was a full crowd in the bar because of a performance by local rock veterans Lust Puppy and Jack Havoc.

Herbert Price of Sequim filmed the incident outside with his cellphone, and the video went viral when he posted it on Facebook.

Price removed the video from Facebook shortly after 1 p.m. Monday, saying he did not “want to be on the cops' bad side.”

Price and several other witnesses from outside the tavern told the PDN that the man did not appear to be resisting arrest.

Dickinson showed reporters videos taken by multiple cameras from the bar's inside surveillance system that showed a man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and a white-billed cap — the same apparel worn by the man in the outside video — enter into a shoving match with another man at the bar.

The two were calmed by friends and appeared to be friendly with each other for a time.

After a couple of more minutes, the man in the hoodie threw an elbow at the other man, and police — there on a “bar-check” after noticing a disturbance in the parking lot — moved in to stop the fight.

Officers Dennis and Rick Larsen escorted the man out of the building.

The surveillance video shows the three of them fall into the planter box outside the front door.

Dickinson pointed out that the man's arm reached around Dennis' waist, with his hand reaching near the officer's Taser stun gun.

Officer Maris Turner, who had aided in trying to break up the altercation, then joined the effort to hold the man down.

Dennis, in his report, said the man would not let his arm out from under his body, prompting the first blow.

With the suspect's resistance escalating even after the initial hit, Dennis said, he struck twice more with his elbow “the soft tissue” of the man's lower left back.

Cries of pain after Dennis' blows are audible in Price's video.

The man then let his arm free, was handcuffed and taken to a patrol car.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at
@peninsuladailynews.com.



Last modified: May 19. 2013 12:57AM
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