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Appropriate conduct or excessive force?
A video recording an incident between Sequim Police and an unidentified individual outside the Oasis Sports Bar & Grill on Sunday, May 12, has made the rounds online at YouTube and Facebook, and has gone mildly viral as the police and citizens offer conflicting views and opinions on whether or not the police striking the man was an appropriate use of force.
“People trust us to use good judgment when we deprive them of their liberty against their will,” said Detective Sgt. Sean Madison.
According to Madison, officers Grant Dennis, Rick Larsen, Maris Turner and John Southard were conducting a routine bar check at around 12 a.m. Sunday at the Oasis when they witnessed an altercation in the bar. The bar, which hosted the Jack Havoc and Lust Puppy punk-metal bands, was filled Saturday night and Sunday morning and had been the location of a call only 45 minutes before the incident.
While they initially intended to cite the man for disorderly conduct, the altercation outside added a resisting arrest charge to the rap sheet.
Surveillance videos from the Oasis also show two men at the bar — one identified as Chris Boynton and the other in a black hooded sweatshirt — getting into a short shoving match before being pulled apart by friends. The two briefly reconciled and seemed to be getting along when another fight broke out and the suspect threw an elbow at Boynton.
Police checking on the bar witnessed the fight and quickly escorted the man outside to diffuse the situation. Once he was outside the door, the man fell into a concrete planting box and officers Dennis, Larsen and Turner surrounded him and attempted to detain him.
According to Sequim Police Chief Bill Dickinson, the man had one arm underneath himself trying to push himself up while reaching another arm around Dennis’s waist, bringing it close to his Taser. Dickinson says that Dennis responded with a kidney punch, designed to break the man’s concentration and give the officer a superior position.
Sequim resident Herbert Price filmed the incident on his cell phone and then posted it to Facebook, but later removed it fearing retribution from the police. Since its posting on YouTube by Zach Taiji, the video has garnered more than 5,500 views.
Despite Dickinson’s arguments, several witnesses have questioned whether or not Dennis used appropriate force. “It looks like it might have been excessive force,” said Oasis owner Dale Dunning, although Dunning admits that it’s difficult to assess the entire situation from the video. Jack Havoc drummer John Promer said on the Sequim Gazette’s Facebook that “the punches our (sic) completely unnecessary.”
Officers intended to book the man, but after he claimed he had a 7-year-old at home, he was released to tend to his child. City Attorney Craig Ritchie has yet to determine if he will pursue the citation.
Contact reporter Ross Coyle at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter on @rosscoylemedia.