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May-27-2009 06:59printcommentsVideo

King County Sheriff Spokesman Deflects Accusations of Police Brutality

Thugs With Badges or Saviors of Society?

Salem-News.com
Sequence clockwise from top left shows Chris Harris fly into the wall just before going motionless on the ground.

(SEATTLE, Wash.) - A Washington man remains in a coma after being tacked into a wall earlier this month by a deputy in King County, Washington. The deputy, 27-year old Matthew Paul, outweighed the man he smashed into a wall by nearly a hundred pounds.

The video in a KOMO TV report of the police "take down", shows the deputy pummel 29-year old Christopher Harris into a wall at an awkward off balance angle, as his neck is clearly bent forward from the force.

The video seems to indicate that driving the man into the wall after tackling him was the deputy's objective.

Harris, who worked at an Edmonds restaurant, was walking on a downtown Seattle sidewalk in "Belltown" when he was driven sideways and headfirst into the wall.

Video cameras are becoming an increasing pain in the rear for police in America, as they reveal a side of law enforcement that most people are convinced does not exist.

The reaction from some agencies and chiefs over similar situations, is to reign in the offending officers and clear them out of the ranks to ensure that mistakes aren't repeated.

Other agencies fight hard to defend the actions of the officer or deputy in question, and that appears to be the case in King County, Washington, based on statements made by the King County Sheriff's Office's John Urquhart.

"We look at this as a tragic accident, nothing more than that. When any of us come to work to begin our shift we don't plan on hurting anybody."

Harris became comatose as a result of the police take down on May 10th, and his family is not buying the story from the King County Sheriff's Office.

His step dad Todd Keeling, told a KOMO reporter "I have no idea why Chris ran, but I think it is a horrible incident that was totally unnecessary."

The attorney representing Harris seems convinced that tackling an innocent man who mistakenly identified into a wall with such a high degree of brutality, may amount to a serious crime, "We believe that the actions of Deputy Paul were at best horribly brutal and at worst criminal."

A common attitude among Americans is that if a police officer did it, whatever or however bad, it must have been justified.

It seems like one of the few things that agencies have left to bank on, as extremely large amounts of force continue to be applied to Americans in seemingly undeserving circumstances.

As the King County Sheriff's Office states publicly that the tragedy is "nothing more" than an accident, in the face of such clear video, Chris Harris remained comatose and in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center in Washington.

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Anonymous March 31, 2014 11:10 am (Pacific time)

The man did not have his hands in his pockets, was not showing a weapon, and at that point, not running. There was NO justification for the level of force used. The cop needs to go to jail, but won't.


Ryan June 12, 2010 5:16 am (Pacific time)

First of all, this is NOT the same guy who beat the girl in the jail cell which he was found not guilty of by a CIVILIAN jury. Secondly, this is what happens when you run from Police. 3 witnesses pointed at him and said he was the guy who just stabbed 2 people and was armed with a knife. They yelled "Police Stop" he took off. When he slowed down and stopped, his hand is his his pocket, the Deputy shoved him and his accidentally his head, end of story. There is no possible way that he intentionally shoved him in order for him to hit his head, that happened by chance. Did he shove him intentionally? You bet, and rightfully so. The injury came after the fact and was by chance. So, basically all you have is this, a Deputy used force (shoved) on a suspect who took off running, was claimed to be armed and just stabbed someone and who had his hands in his pockets... Oooo i know, the horror, the brutality... It's easy for you to comment when you weren't there and don't know all the facts.


cherubian February 2, 2010 8:02 pm (Pacific time)

The King County Sheriff's Department seems to have more of their share of police brutality and something needs to be done about this. Last year, February 2009, this same office brutally beat a 15 year old girl for no reason. The leadership is very questionable and civil law suits an hate crime charges should be applied to all of them.


Raven June 2, 2009 4:06 pm (Pacific time)

@ Daniel: I think they already have a show like that. (COPS)


Jeff May 30, 2009 9:46 am (Pacific time)

Jeff Gerritt, Detroit Free Press, May 28, 2009 Empty jail cells are normally something to celebrate, but Wayne County’s top law enforcement officials say the hundreds of vacant jail beds are not because of a drop in crime or more reasonable sentencing. Floors of the downtown Detroit jail are empty because police are arresting fewer people accused of those crimes. Altogether, three county jails that held about 2,500 prisoners a year ago now house 400 fewer inmates. Sheriff Warren Evans said police are so slow to respond to some calls that the crimes never get reported. Prosecutor Kym Worthy was more blunt: {snip} Detroit has lost hundreds of sworn officers in recent years. The Police Department didn’t respond to repeated requests for interviews with its top leaders, but it released preliminary statistics showing an overall decline in criminal activity this year, despite a 24% increase in homicides. {snip} Empty cells point to police breakdown {snip} The seventh floor of the Baird Detention Facility, normally home to 128 newly arrested prisoners, is vacant. So are the ninth floor and half of the 12th floor. Another 128 beds at the Dickerson Detention Facility in Hamtramck are also closed. That adds up to more than 400 empty beds in Wayne County jails that, up to about a year ago, were filled with roughly 2,500 prisoners. The main explanation is simple, according to the county’s top two law enforcement officials: Detroit police are making fewer arrests, a dereliction so obvious it has led some Detroiters to conclude there’s no point in even calling the cops. “I’ve talked to dozens, probably hundreds, of people in the community who are telling me they never made a report because the police never came,” Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans said Tuesday. “The delay in response time is such that many, many, many crimes don’t get reported.” {snip} “We tell the press that crime is going down,” Worthy [Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy] said. “It’s not going down; it’s going up, exponentially, and we have many fewer officers on the street. We need to acknowledge the problem.” The Detroit Police Department did not respond to several requests for comment last week. Instead, a department spokeswoman, citing preliminary police statistics, said overall crime in the city so far this year is down 9.1%, excluding a 24% increase in homicides—a trend that, if true, would partly explain the jail’s decreasing census, especially for those awaiting trial. In 2007, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department recorded 20,423 felony bookings. Last year, there were just 18,261—a drop of more than 10% in a single year. So far this year, bookings have continued to drop roughly 10%, said Undersheriff Daniel Pfannes. {snip} Neither Oakland nor Macomb Counties report comparable declines in their own jail populations. Both counties’ cells remain full, despite innovative efforts to manage the population, Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel and Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe say. Pontiac, however, is experiencing a trend similar to Detroit’s: Arrests have declined as the number of sworn officers has dropped from 170 to 65 in the last three years. {snip} Even serious crimes aren’t getting solved. Arrests are made in only 37% of Detroit homicides, compared to more than 60% nationwide. Officers have too little time to investigate, and they work with a community that often does not trust them. Detroit’s shuttered police crime lab has raised more troubling questions about homicide investigations. Another reason arrests are down is the closing—for good cause—of many decrepit, pre-arraignment holding cells under a federal consent decree that is mandating reforms. Six years ago, police held 350 in such lockups, compared to about 130 today. Shift supervisors, and probably officers, know when the lockups are full. {snip} Privately, some law enforcement officials also say Detroit police are frustrated by the added paperwork required for arrests under the federal consent decree. {snip} Fundamental breakdowns in other basic services also decrease public safety. Copper thieves have made land-line phone service in parts of the city, especially on the east side, unreliable and sporadic. It’s not unusual for phone lines to be dead when crime victims try to call 911. {snip} Original article Email Jeff Gerritt at gerritt@freepress.com.


Edge Expert May 29, 2009 11:31 am (Pacific time)

Tom, Tim King and most of the other posters on this site are not posters at all, but bona fide died-in-the-wool news reporters from the larger TV and newspaper industries, with awards and all of the things that go along with that. I always look at Tim as an example of what I could have been, or done with my life, but at least I can vicariously follow his adventures in the NW, in California and in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. The guy doesn't just cover war with a peaceful attitude, but Salem-News.com also launched the reports that led to the El Toro Marine base redevelopment being shut down. Lennar and Irvine and wanted to make the extremely toxic land into a park and high dollar housing community project being put on hold. It seems the Lennar Group (Read Orange County Republicans) thought they could pull a fast one on the people of OC by ignoring the TCE pollution and lying about it, only the Internet reports from Salem-News got a tidal wave of interest going and soon the Orange County press jumped in, and now Lennar is under investigation for federal racketeering (RICO) charges. Go get 'em Tim! I'm one of the regulars around here, not half the man Tim King is, but at least I'm here. While I'm at it, I want to quickly add praise to America for electing Obama and at least trying to ditch a racist reputation along the way. I used to think I could easily toy with the undeveloped brains and girly boy personas of the religious right, pukes like Bush and Limbaugh, but I get nauseated just thinking about them. all things in good time.


Daniel May 28, 2009 12:30 pm (Pacific time)

JB the police are NOT judge and jury in-spite of what you think . When someone does unjustified violent actions to another there should be punishment , for the criminal and the paid servants of society , the police . The police are paid to serve and protect , not club and punish . This is not suppose to be a brutal police state but a free society , JB if you want a police state move to china , you will love it . If you watch the video the young man is doing nothing but trying to leave a bad seen , the cop hits him like a raging bull , this is not justified . On the previous story the cops beat an unconscious man , and the officers are fired . JB do you think these violent actions were justified ? BTW i have had paroled convects stay at my house , no problem .


Tom May 28, 2009 11:54 am (Pacific time)

"Tim King: ... besides, they were chasing people for having a fight, not a murder or a bank robbery or a sex assault" You left out another key word, "knife". They were chasing a man, identified by a witness as a person involved in a knife fight. That made him a suspect in at least assault with a deadly weapon, or possibly attempted murder. When challenged, he ran from uniformed police. If a crime victim identifies someone as a suspect in a violent crime, and that suspect runs, the police get to chase him. That is their job. The man being chased slows and turns toward the cop, no time to figure out if he's turning to fight or surrender or pull a weapon. I don't necessarily think that a body check to get who they think is an violent, possibly armed and dangerous suspect on the ground to subdue/handcuff him is unreasonable, plus if the fleeing suspect is knocked to the ground, he can't continue to run away. Sadly, with the building right there, it clearly was not a good idea in this case. I have always been against the militarization of police, and I am the first to wave the BS flag when things are clearly excessive/abusive, like the beating of the unconscious guy in Birmingham, or the cyclist attack in Times Square. I don't think this one is as cut and dry as a lot of people think, at least with the information that is available. And that is all we have to go on, because we were not there. I am not saying this isn't tragic. I am not saying the kid deserves to be in the condition he is now in. I would also hope that you could be honest enough to admit it is not impossible that the cop acted in good faith, based on the information he had at the time, made a quick decision under immense pressure and did what he thought was necessary for the situation which he believed to be in.


Tom May 27, 2009 11:35 pm (Pacific time)

You left out some critical details that don't support your "Cops are Evil Thugs With Badges" thesis. You describe it as
"was walking on a downtown Seattle sidewalk in "Belltown" when he was driven sideways and headfirst into the wall"

You skipped the fairly significant detail, the whole identified by a witness and running from the police thing.

Yes, it is tragic, and I hope Harris recovers, but you make is sound like the cop randomly assaulted some random kid.

Tim King: Tom, if you justify that man's use of force then there is obviously nothing to discuss.  Few officers or deputies would use their own physical advantage that way and besides, they were chasing people for having a fight, not a murder or a bank robbery or a sex assault.  I have an old Marine Corps buddy here in Salem who is one of the NW's top ranked Karate black belts for many years running.  I know that if he went into a full brutal attack on a person for whatever reason, he fists would be viewed by the law as weapons.  I think King County appears blatantly irresponsible and I have plenty of other stuff to talk about in Washington, where cops are all like a bunch of secret police in their unmarked cars.      


JB May 27, 2009 7:44 pm (Pacific time)

No post on the guy who kills his 2 month old daughter I guess he couldn't be on your "Brutes" show. I think all the bleeding hearts should let a paroled crimianl stay at their house for a few weeks when they get out untill they get on their feet. What do you say Daniel and Vic? They could watch your kids for their keep.


Daniel May 27, 2009 4:28 pm (Pacific time)

I am thinking of producing a new reality series called 'brutes'. Every one everyone where you gona run, where you gona run when day come for you . "Tonight on brutes three bone crushing take downs a paralyzer, clubbing an unconscious suspect and a tazer death, all coming up after five minutes from our sponsors."


Anonymous May 27, 2009 12:43 pm (Pacific time)

Well, when someone smashes John for no reason we call it a tragic accident and move on as if nothing happened. He wasn't running, he was confused and trying to jog away to avoid it. He puts up his hands at the last second before being tackled as a sign of submission. Guess the deputies motto is "Shoot first, ask questions later."


Vic May 27, 2009 12:41 pm (Pacific time)

Unfortunately, cops like this guy make all police suspect and a threat. I worry more about my kids being killed or abused by police than by criminals. Look at the case of Lucas Glenn or Fouad Kaady..Like Orwell's Animal Farm, those who we have entrusted to protect us have become the predators. I know there are a lot of good cops...I have known several..but the threat is so great that I will avoid using or involving the police if at all possible.


Daniel May 27, 2009 11:24 am (Pacific time)

Tragic accident ? Give me a break .

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