by Carolyn Bick
The Emerald’s Watchdragon reporting seeks to increase accountability within our city’s institutions through in-depth investigative journalism.
Content Warning: This article contains raw, unedited video from the King County Jail in Downtown Seattle and detailed descriptions of violence and injuries.
If the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention’s (DAJD) official story about protester Eric Look’s July 25, 2020, arrest is to be believed, Look forcefully slammed his own face into a pre-booking counter at the King County Jail in Downtown Seattle, causing permanent damage to his two front teeth.
In fact, if one reviews the video of this incident, it appears — in line with the department’s version of events — that Look must briefly have defied the laws of gravity, apparently levitating for a split second before allegedly smashing his own face into the aforementioned counter.
But Look wasn’t alone. He was surrounded by a group of uniformed officers. Look told the Emerald in a July 29, 2021, interview that he did not slam his own face into the pre-booking counter. Look told the Emerald he believes that what happened to him was retaliation for him taunting officers after his arrest by replacing lyrics to familiar children’s tunes with words like “cops are stupid.”
“I was quite vocal about the fact that I was wrongfully arrested,” Look said. He had been part of the mass protests on July 25, 2020, and one of the dozens of people arrested that day. As the Emerald detailed last year in an article that came out less than a week after the events of that day, several people have alleged — and filed suits over — abuse while in custody.
In the video of Look’s arrest, which the Emerald has included below, upon entering the station, at least two uniformed officers appear to thrust Look forward, forcefully lifting up the thin, handcuffed young man and slamming nearly his entire upper body, including his face, onto the counter.
Shortly after this, a group of uniformed officers that appear to include some Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers surround Look. One of them puts a bag, called a “spit sock,” onto Look’s head, and seats him in a chair, briefly evoking images of Hollywood-style interrogation scenes.
But this isn’t Hollywood, and it wasn’t an interrogation.
DAJD’s official report on the matter appears to claim that the only use of force was when two jail officers used a “compliance hold,” due to Look’s alleged noncompliance. Other than that, though, the report claims that officers did not employ any use of force.
DAJD Sgt. Zane McCraw wrote and signed off on the official report or “Details Of Incident statement.” The Emerald has included the statement in its entirety here and McCraw’s statement below.
(Author’s Note: The Emerald determined the names of four officers referenced in the report using OpenPayrolls. However, there appears to be an error at the beginning of the report, which appears to mistakenly list an involved officer as “B. Woolsey” rather than “A. Woolsey,” as appears later in the report. The Emerald has also bolded certain text in McCraw’s statement to demonstrate where the narrative appears to contradict what is shown on the video as well as Look’s own recollections.)
In this statement, McCraw says that “[o]n July 25, 2020 at 2044, Seattle Police arrived with an uncooperative inmate.
“Officers [Aaron] Woolsey and [Christopher] Harraway accompanied me to the Vehicle Sally [the jail’s controlled vehicle entryway] to assist. From the back of the van, Inmate Look, Eric (220012163) could be heard yelling, demanding that we get him out of the vehicle. The Seattle Police Officer explained that during transport, Look had continually yelled and made verbal threats toward officers.
“Officer Harraway opened the van door. As Look stepped out, Officer Harraway attempted to secure his arm to ensure he did not fall. Look pulled away and said, “don’t fucking touch me. You can’t touch me.” Officer Woolsey stepped in and secured Look’s right arm in an escort hold while Officer Harraway secured his left arm. As the two officers escorted Look into ITR [Intake, Transfer, and Release], he repeatedly tensed up, tried pulling away, and continued yelling threats and demands.
“Once at the pre-book counter, both officers secured Look’s body against the counter. He then threw his own head and upper body down into the counter, hitting his face. The officers noticed the impact caused a cut on his lip resulting in some bleeding. Look was compliant with the remainder of the intake process. Nurse SueAnne completed the medical intake, evaluated the cut on his lip and cleared him for housing in our facility.
“Officers Woolsey and Harraway escorted Look to Cell 9 where he cooperated with the dress-out process by removing his own clothing. He was given a clean uniform and all staff exited the cell without further incident.”
In his Officer’s Report to DAJD Major Todd Clark, Harraway claims that “[o]nce we got up to the prebook counter, Officer Woolsey and I attempted to pin Inmate Look up against the counter to gain better control when Inmate Look attempted to pull away and threw himself at the counter and hit his face against the flat surface of the counter. I observed that Inmate Look had a small cut on his lip with a small amount of blood on the counter. Inmate Look was seen and cleared by Jail Health Staff.”
In Woolsey’s Officer’s Report to Clark, Woolsey claims that “Look was escorted to the pre-book counter. Officer Harraway and I pinned Look to the counter using body weight. Look reared his had [sic] back and slammed his own face down on the counter. This caused some blood to come from a cut in his mouth. After that occurred, Look became compliant and was cleared by JHS for booking.”
Both officers also said that Look had been “screaming obscenities” and screaming that he would “kill officers” while en route to the jail.
Look’s “cut” was much more than a cut. It was damage to Look’s mouth that meant he had to have his front two teeth (called incisors) replaced with prosthetics. This is not a permanent fix, though: Look will have to get these fake teeth repaired every few years. This will cost him between $3,000 and $5,000 each time.
As for the fact that he “became compliant” after allegedly slamming his own face down onto the counter, Look told the Emerald that while in SPD custody he “basically harassed them for as long as I possibly could, which was the entire duration of my stay [in an SPD holding cell], until they did something about it.”
“The point was to silence me, which they achieved,” Look said of the incident in which his teeth were broken and face bloodied at the King County Jail. “I was unwilling to risk more bodily harm for the sake of emotionally annoying them.”
Look and his legal team filed a complaint with the King County Ombuds on July 16, 2021. The complaint summary is brief. The Emerald has included the text of that complaint below and has bolded certain areas of text that diverge from the DAJD officers’ written statements. The complaint summary reads as follows:
“On July 25, 2020 Eric Look was arrested while participating [in] the BLM/George Floyd protests. Upon arriving at King County Jail, Eric was escorted to the pre-booking desk, where County employees slammed his body and head onto the desk. The force of the blow caused Eric’s two front teeth to break, and he spit out pieces of his teeth onto the desk. He also sustained a bloody lip. Officers covered his head with a spit-sock and completed the booking process. A jail nurse asked Mr. Look a few questions, but did not clean, treat, or photograph his injuries. Eric was released on July 26th at approximately 1pm. He has not been prosecuted for any charges. Eric is a Plaintiff in a multi-plaintiff suit filed in King County Superior Court. In the course of discovery, we received the incident reports and video of Eric’s arrest. The incident reports state that Eric threw his own head onto the desk, causing his own injuries. The accounts of Officers Harraway and Woolsey, Sergeant McCraw, and the recommendation by Major Clark that the action taken was appropriate are false and misleading. The video footage of Eric’s arrest confirms that Mr. Look was slammed into the desk by King County Correction Officers.”
According to the complaint form, there were also two eyewitnesses to this incident, both of whom were being held in the jail at the time.
The form asks what the “best way to resolve” the complaint would be. Look and his legal team’s response is as follows:
“A thorough investigation of the incidents that took place while Mr Look was held in King County Jail, discipline for the county staff that were involved in the incidents described up to and including termination; a public letter recognizing the county’s staff’s errors, improvements to the process for handling inmate complaints; invalidation of any regulations or provisions of CBAs that prevent swift discipline for those who abuse inmates; establishment of an affirmative duty to report inmate abuse and violations of policy; clear signage instructing inmates how to make a complaint to an independent external body; procedure for referring potential criminal violations by jail employees for prosecution; safeguards against political persecution of inmates; presumptive termination for jail employees engaging in inmate abuse and/or discrimination; and penalties for future violations.”
Look said he is lucky insofar as he not only managed to find a legal team who would listen to him but that he survived this incident at all.
“Most people are not going to be able to get a legal team. Most people are not going to have video evidence,” Look said. “Most people are not going to be able to speak on, at all, about what happened, because they either won’t be believed, or they are dead.”
But that’s where the relative “good” stops for Look. Even now, talking about or even remembering what happened is extremely triggering. He hasn’t watched the video included in this article — he said there’s no point in triggering himself over trauma he directly experienced and damage which he will have to pay thousands of dollars to physically repair every few years.
When the Emerald asked what Look’s next steps are, he countered: “I don’t know about next steps. There are no next steps.
“I feel like I know — I have paid attention enough to the state of the world and what has been regularly occurring to have a realistic outlook on this. I don’t think I am going to fucking see — nothing is ever going to change because of this. I’m not going to fucking get any restitution. None of the people involved are going to see any justice — any form of justice. Not that justice is a fucking thing.”
“I think that this, unfortunately, is going to be … another fucking day,” Look said. “This is just another fucking normal day.”
The Emerald reached out to the DAJD for comment about this incident and referenced the video in question. The Emerald asked if there would be any consequences for the officers involved, given what the video appears to show, and whether any of the resolutions proposed by Look and his legal team would be instituted.
DAJD communications specialist Noah Haglund responded to the Emerald in an Aug. 2 email, saying that “[t]his incident is currently under litigation, and involves a person brought to the King County Correctional Facility (KCCF) in Seattle around 8:45 p.m. on July 25, 2020.”
“The situation was documented and reviewed, and per protocol all reports and video were saved by command staff, and all information has been submitted to the attorneys handling this litigation,” Haglund wrote. “We are not providing further comment, given the pending litigation.”
Carolyn Bick is a journalist and photographer based in South Seattle. As the Emerald’s Watchdragon reporter, they dive deep into local issues to keep the public informed and ensure those in positions of power are held accountable for their actions. You can reach them here and can check out their work here and here.
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