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Viral video bar fight suspect set for court
Sequim Gazette staff
Barring a pretrial motion or another procedural hiccup, the trial of Morgan Weimer, the 45-year-old Sequim man whose arrest was featured in on an online video, will begin in District Court on .
He faces up to one year in prison and a $5,000 fine for fourth degree assault and resisting arrest.
The charges stem from an early morning incident on at the Oasis Sports Bar & Grill, 301 E. Washington St.
Surveillance video captured a brief shoving match between Weimer and Chris Boynton, but the two reconciled. Later, another fight began after Weimer allegedly hit Boynton with an elbow after Boynton continued to lean on Weimer after telling him to stop.
Police responding as part of a routine check restrained Weimer inside and took him out of the bar.
From here, the online video captures the scene where officers Grant Dennis, Rick Larsen, Maris Turner and John Southard restrain or contain the scene after Weimer fell into the bar's planter box.
Police Chief Bill Dickinson said Weimer appeared to be trying to push himself up while reaching another arm around Dennis’ waist, bringing it close to his Taser, so Dennis struck Weimer three times to get him to release his uncuffed arm.
“Once he was cuffed, it is totally over,” he said. “They stand him up and walk him away.”
City Attorney Craig Ritchie said Weimer made an informal complaint outside the Sequim Police Department recently where he was recorded and interviewed.
City officials later transcribed his statement and complaint and gave it to the police department, which has initiated an investigation to see if Dennis used excessive force. “If they find something that the officer did wrong, then they’ll take action,” said Ritchie.
Dickinson said a “use of force” form will be filed once supervisors to the case finish reviewing the incident.
But he doesn't anticipate any repercussions for Dennis or the other officers.
“I can't see where he's violated anything,” Dickinson said of Dennis.
“Most of the public hasn't seen the real (surveillance) video,” he said. “It's created a real divide in the community because they've only seen the viral video. It doesn't show the whole context. In doingso, they've given the community a completely false idea of the situation.”
Dickinson said the incident has led to a division in one Sequim school (he wouldn't name it for privacy issues) between students, parents and teachers getting into debates over the issue of excessive force. He'll be meeting briefly to discuss it with school superintendent Kelly Shea.
Feedback from community
Since the incident, Dickinson said he's gotten mixed comments from the public.He said he's gotten some supportive e-mails and calls while most of the negative feedback is coming online.
So far, the Internet video has garnered more than 14,000 views.
Dickinson said the surveillance video shows that Weimer was combative whereas the viral video draws people's assumptions that he was beaten while handcuffed.
“He was actively resisting arrest,” Dickinson said.
The community's impression remains a mixed bag on what went down.
Kris Young, 28, feels that there’s not enough information from the 30-second video to make a solid judgement. But that doesn’t mean that he’s not a little concerned about the degree of force Dennis used.“It’s definitely walking that line of excessiveness but I don’t like to jump to conclusions,” Young said.
He also believes that Sequim's younger population has a bit of an anti-authoritarian streak, as a natural product of police responses to partying in a small town, and that this causes younger people in town to have a bias against authority. “This town’s got a lot of people that like to party, so the reaction is to get angry at police.”
Retiree John Orr said he's in favor of the police's actions.
“You get a couple of guys scrapping it out in the bar and the cops have to make a call,” Orr said.
One online commenter Katelyn Garrett said on YouTube that Weimer “wasn't resisting at all. The cop was pissed and acted like a bully.
The guy was down and the officer was just mad. AND SHAME ON THE OTHER OFFICERS for just letting that assault happen.” (Capitals are Garrett's.)
How Dennis handled the situation is one of many ways, Dickinson said, an officer can deal with a situation similarly to the Oasis incident.
“One blog suggested he should be tazed or pepper-sprayed instead, but that's way more painful,” he said.
“This was to break his concentration. It's a technique. It just doesn't look pretty when officers have to use force.”
Incidentally, Dickinson said a similar situation happened the night before at the Oasis that was handled much easier.
“She sent us an apology letter two days later,” he said.