More than two-and-a-half years after what Sequim resident Morgan Weimer, 48, classified as excessive force from Sequim Police, he settled last week with the City of Sequim’s risk pool to receive $35,000 in damages.
The settlement agreement follows an incident where Weimer was subdued on May 12, 2013, by police outside the Oasis Bar & Grill, after he was involved in two brief altercations with patron Chris Boynton inside the restaurant.
Cell phone footage captured an officer punching Weimer after he allegedly reached for the officer’s taser, law enforcement officials said.
A trial was set to begin Tuesday, Oct. 6, as Weimer sought damages and attorney’s fees in U.S. District Court in Tacoma but the judge ordered a settlement, which Weimer’s attorney John Black said he wanted all along.
“We achieved what we set out to do — to get the compensation for the pain he endured,” Black said. “We feel we held the city accountable.”
Black said Weimer, a drywaller, lost time at work and sought medical help after suffering severe back pain for a few weeks following three blows to his kidney area.
The City’s Risk Pool attorney Patrick McMahon from Wenatchee said the decision was a business decision by the risk pool and doesn’t concede liability.
“(The city) was prepared to proceed to trial with every confidence that the jury would agree that the officers acted lawfully based on the resistance and aggression demonstrated by Mr. Weimer captured on the surveillance video,” McMahon said in a statement.
Following the incident, Weimer pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct and paid $100 in fines and served eight hours of community service.
Weimer also made an informal complaint about the Sequim Police to City Attorney Craig Ritchie. He confirmed that this complaint led to an investigation to see if the police officer, Grant Dennis, used excessive force. It was deemed he did not.
Sequim Police Chief Bill Dickinson told the Gazette after the incident that Dennis used a “reasonable use of force allowed by law.”
He said surveillance video from the restaurant shows the two incidents between Weimer and Boynton and that officers felt threatened.
Black, who also worked with attorney John Muenster of Bainbridge Island on the lawsuit, said the internal investigation’s findings led Weimer to pursue a lawsuit against the city.
“The City of Sequim doesn’t feel they’ve done anything wrong,” Black said. “Every time I review the cell phone video, you can just feel it. I’ve talked to officers on the force for 40 years and they’ve never punched anyone. The video speaks for itself.”
If the case did go to trial, Black said he was prepared to bring in witnesses such as Oasis owner Dale Dunning and Boynton to testify that the incidents between the two patrons didn’t rise to a level of assault that led to the incident between Weimer and the police officers.
“The surveillance video doesn’t have sound and there’s no one there interpreting it,” he said.
“The cell phone video is clear and has sound.”
Dickinson reiterated that the decision to settle was made by the city’s insurance company because it was the less expensive route to go rather through a trial.
“We expected to prevail,” he said. “From a business standpoint, I understand their reasoning to save the money from a trial but we also lose the ability to vindicate ourselves.”
Dickinson said he, the three officers involved, Dennis, Rick Larsen and Maris Turner were going to testify along with the sergeant who investigated the excessive force complaint.
“The officers were exonerated,” Dickinson said.
To see the surveillance video of the night, visit http://vimeo.com/68631714.
To see the viral video of Weimer and the police, visit http://pnw.cc/BzQB9.