Seattle Police Officer Charged in Kicking Incident

SEATTLE --

 

Seattle's City Attorney has charged a Seattle police officer with fourth-degree assault in connection with a videotaped incident that showed the officer kicking a 17-year-old boy at a convenience store downtown last fall.

If convicted of the charge, a gross misdemeanor, Officer James Lee faces a maximum term of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine, the City Attorney's office said in a news release on Wednesday. Lee has been on administrative reassignment since November.

In the video, Lee appears to give a command to the teen near the store cash register. While the teen holds his hands in the air, Lee starts repeatedly kicking him. Another officer pushes Lee away after he shoves his foot into the teen's face.

"We understand that our police officers have a dangerous job," City Attorney Pete Holmes said, according to the news release. "They are thus permitted the legal ability to use reasonable force in apprehending people suspected of having committed a crime. When the force used is not reasonable under the circumstances, the officer must be held accountable."

"Politically, it's obviously a very difficult decision to make; to charge a police officer for a crime committed in the line of duty," said Christopher Carney, the teen's attorney. "Ultimately, what I think made the decision a lot easier is the video we've all seen speaks for itself."

According to police reports, Lee thought the teen was part of a group that assaulted several undercover officers during a drug buy in a Second Avenue parking lot. The teen was charged with attempted robbery, but has since been acquitted.

"He's been exonerated," Carney said. "He was trying to surrender in his confusion as to why this man was running at him, then Officer Lee decided to repeatedly and unnecessarily kick him while he was down."

The incident is one of several that led the Justice Department last month to launch a formal civil rights investigation of the Seattle Police Department.

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