Screenshot from BWV depicting a bike's front tire being used to "push" a protestor.

OPA Interviews Suggest Former OPA Dir. Retroactively OK’d Out-of-Policy Force Tactic

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 images of acts of violence.

In late September 2021, the Emerald published an article detailing serious discrepancies and what appears to have been a false narrative about the events of the 2020 Labor Day protest in front of the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG). 

This false narrative, detailed in the Office of Police Accountability’s (OPA) Director’s Certification Memo (DCM), was based on interviews with some Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers who had been at the protest, as well as other supplemental documentation, such as body worn video (BWV).

The DCM had been finalized in April 2021, but, as of that writing, the Case Closed Summary (CCS) — the public-facing document regarding the OPA’s decision in a case — had not been published. The OPA finally published part I of this CCS on Feb. 8, 2022, but the narrative, though somewhat corrected, still remains deeply flawed, and the OPA itself admits to several issues throughout. Notably, the CCS is dated April 8, 2021, which lines up with the investigation completion date that the Emerald wrote in its September article on the matter. This CCS was released despite former OPA Dir. Andrew Myerberg claiming that an amended DCM would be issued and current Seattle City Councilmember and Public Safety Committee chair Lisa Herbold stating that the case had yet to be finalized and closed, apparently ignoring the available evidence to the contrary.

Readers are invited to read part one of this article that quotes the OPA’s CCS, with regard to its claims made about the partial certification issued for this case in early February of last year. Readers are also invited to read the Emerald’s list of questions that it sent to the OPA for this two-part article. The OPA did not answer a single question.

Click to enlarge.

Editor’s Note: The Emerald seeks to bring transparency and clarity to complex, often confusing police and government accountability systems and processes in Seattle and King County. To that end, we’ve launched a diagramming project to help readers navigate these stories. We’ll diagram future — and past — stories as time and resources allow.

This article represents part two of a two-part deep-dive into the OPA’s interviews with officers in that case. Part one discusses the fact that the OPA neglected to interview officers intimately involved in the day’s events and details two key officer interviews in that case. In the CCS, the OPA claims that interviewing these officers would have made no difference, even though one of the officers it did not interview was the person who attempted to arrest someone who allegedly had an incendiary device and another was apparently undercover in the crowd and indicated for other officers which protester should be targeted for arrest.

This article will discuss the 11 officers the OPA did interview in this case, as well as highlighting problems and conspicuous omissions within the Report of Investigation (ROI) that lead OPA investigator Sgt. Matthew Hendry created. The OPA’s DCM is based on this ROI, which underpins the false narrative present in the former document. In the ROI, which appears to be riddled with problems, Hendry withholds what appears to be a key piece of information (the presence of a trash bag) that does, despite his claims to the contrary in response to the OIG auditor — noted in the OPA’s CCS — seem likely to have had bearing on SPD’s attempt to arrest one person. 

According to police radio communications that day, the alleged “probable cause” to attempt an arrest comes from the smell of gas allegedly emanating from the person in question. While this person is also wearing a gray backpack, the trash bag is of particular interest because when an officer attempts to arrest that person, he rips away the trash bag and later specifically references the trash bag when speaking to his commanding officer, surmising that it might contain the incendiary device the person is allegedly suspected of carrying. 

The ROI omits this, and the OPA’s CCS ignores this fact, instead attempting to explain away the OPA investigator’s curious omission of the trash bag. The OPA states that the presence of a trash bag had “no bearing” on whether there was probable cause to arrest, though it notes that “the suspect was identified as having a trash bag multiple times over radio.” Moreover,  as the Emerald noted in the first part of this article, because the OPA neglected to interview the officer who attempted the arrest, the intelligence officer in the crowd, the command officers the first officer spoke with about the arrest attempt shortly after said attempt, and the officer(s) in charge of intelligence that day, it seems impossible to claim with certainty that the trash bag had “no bearing” on the arrest attempt. It therefore also seems impossible to claim with certainty, as the OPA does in its CCS, that these missing interviews would not have changed any of the outcomes in the investigation.

In reviewing the interviews Hendry did conduct, not only do all of the officers give false information — false information that the OPA’s DCM appears to try to support, as discussed in the Emerald’s first story on this matter — but it appears that Hendry asked these officers leading questions. The OPA itself admits to these leading questions. When these officers did not give the answers that Hendry appears to have wanted, he allowed the SPOG representatives who were present to effectively give interviews in place of the officers, sometimes at great length. This appears to run counter to what both the new and old version of the OPA manual intend to allow the SPOG representative to do during an interview (i.e., present brief objections and ask questions at the end of the interview). It should be noted that, at the time of these interviews, the old OPA manual’s regulations were in effect. It should also be noted that this is another issue the OPA itself admits to, to some extent, in the CCS. 

Finally, based on statements from several officers within these OPA interviews, it appears that former OPA Dir. Andrew Myerberg retroactively OK’d the untrained tactic of using the front tires of bicycles as a means to move people and for crowd control directly in response to the events of the 2020 Labor Day protest and the fact that officers used their bikes to repeatedly shove and strike protesters during that event. The Emerald briefly discussed the issue of bicycle strikes and shoves with the front tire being classified as a use of force — or not — in its last story on the matter.

As of Jan. 25, 2022, Myerberg now serves as the director of Public Safety, a new position created by Mayor Bruce Harrell. It is also worth noting that Myerberg is currently under investigation for an unrelated accusation.

The Report of Investigation: “This is, of course, voluntary on your part”

The Emerald will begin its continued examination of the 2020 Labor Day protest with the Report of Investigation (ROI) that Hendry filed.

In the ROI, Hendry details the steps he took in order to complete the investigation. He says that the investigation formally began on Sept. 16, 2020, after former Deputy Dir. and OPA investigator Mark Grba emailed him the intake complaints to begin the investigation. Hendry states in the ROI that he “emailed SPOG President Solan and SPOG Administrative Dir. Sarah Scott and requested the SPOG office private video that captured the Labor Day events.”

However, it appears that Hendry did more than simply email them to request the video. The Emerald obtained the short emails between Hendry and Scott.

On Sept. 16, 2020, nine days after the clash between protesters and police officers in front of SPOG headquarters in SoDo, Hendry sent Solan and Scott an email.

“Hi Mike and Sarah,” Hendry’s email opens. “I’m the lucky recepient [sic] of the Labor Day complaints related to the SPOG protests.

“I am requesting copies of any surveillance video captured from SPOG’s security cameras that would have captured the officers’ actions,” Hendry continues, before specifically noting: “This is, of course, voluntary on your part.”

He then closes the short email: “Please let me know if you can provide video. Matt”

Six days later, on Sept. 22, Scott replies to Hendry, stating that SPOG will decline to provide the requested video.

“At this time SPOG is denying this request,” Scott writes. “However, if there is specific incident where specific video is needed, SPOG will consider this request on a case-by-case basis. Should you make this request, please detail a specific time stamp and location (in relation to the SPOG building) where this video is requested.”

Here, Scott, essentially seems to be telling Hendry and the rest of the OPA that, in order to access SPOG’s video from the protest, investigators will need to know exactly what they are looking for — that they will need to know information that the OPA does not have, which is the entire reason they are asking for the video.

Hendry does not include the fact that he received a reply from Scott anywhere in the ROI, a fact that the then-Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigations supervisor who reviewed this case notes in a piece of supplemental internal documentation obtained by the Emerald. This person — now a former employee of the OIG — is the same person who filed a whistleblower complaint against the OIG in August 2021, an issue the Emerald has been closely monitoring and following.

“In ROI investigation timeline, Sgt Hendry states: ‘I emailed SPOG President Solan and SPOG Admin Sarah Scott and requested the SPOG office private video that captured the Labor Day events.’ Neither the email chain nor the private video were included in the case file. No mention of why they were never obtained,” the former investigations supervisor writes. 

The former investigations supervisor then continues, saying that they “emailed OPA to request further information concerning this request and/or the SPOG video, Sgt Hendry stated in response: ‘…I just spoke to Mike and he will look through their email records and see if he can find it. It’s possible he called me in October and told me that SPOG declined to provide their private video…The short of it is, they are not going to provide their private video.’”

“However,” the former investigations supervisor continues in the supplemental internal document, “the actual email response (received from Sarah Scott 22 Sept 2020) reads: At this time SPOG is denying this request. However, if there is a specific incident where specific video is needed, SPOG will consider this request on a case-by-case basis…please detail specific time/location. None of this information was included in investigation and Investigator did not request any video from SPOG, despite assistance it could have provided in relation to arrests and/or individual with ‘incendiary device.’”

There are also several other problematic pieces of the ROI, which coalesce to form the false narrative put forth in the DCM the Emerald discussed in its previous story on the matter.

One of the first glaring issues in the ROI is that Hendry inaccurately relates both the actual TAC9 audio and the Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) report regarding the 2020 Labor Day protest. He even goes so far as to remove any references to a potential suspect holding a trash bag, though it seems to be a key detail. The supplemental internal OIG documentation notes that he does this without explanation.

In the ROI’s version of the TAC9 audio, Hendry writes, “Description of a male who smells of gas, wearing a backpack, walking south.” He time-stamps this as approximately 52:30 in the recording.

The TAC9 audio recording that documents this description starts at 52:16. The actual recording of the officer giving the description is: “Gray backpack, male, carrying a — directly in front of the flag — he’s carrying — at SPOG — carrying a trash bag.”

Another officer responds: “Copy, gray backpack, carrying a trash bag.”

Officers also note that this person allegedly smells of gas.

At approximately 54:30 in the recording, Hendry writes that there is another request for the suspect’s description. That description, according to Hendry, is “Tan clothing, backpack, smells of gas. Confirm now in black clothing with gray backpack. Confirmed possession of incendiary device.”

On the recording, the officer actually says at the 54:35 mark, “Gray backpack, tan clothing, carrying a trash bag, and smells of gas.” There is no mention of an incendiary device.

Another officer breaks in a few moments later to correct this officer: “Not tan clothing anymore.”

The first officer responds, “Confirming no longer has tan clothing?”

Another officer says, “Black clothing, gray backpack. Black clothing, gray backpack.”

A different officer says, “If we confirm, what is the offense?”

Another officer says, “Incendiary device possession.” This is the first mention of an incendiary device and it should be noted that it does not confirm that this person had an incendiary device. Still, the OPA falsely claims in its CCS (emphasis by the Emerald): “Specifically, even if Subject #2 was not, in fact, holding an incendiary device at the time officers attempted to arrest him, he was identified as doing so via radio transmissions …”

Hendry’s omission of the trash bag continues throughout the TAC9 portion of the ROI. As the Emerald previously wrote about in its first story about the whistleblower complaint, this may be because the BWV of the officer who attempted to arrest this person revealed that there appeared to be nothing inside the bag but trash — no incendiary device is visible. 

As noted above, the OPA claims in its CCS that the trash bag had no bearing on the decision to arrest, but since the OPA neglected to interview several involved officers, including the officer who attempted the arrest and whose BWV shows the trash bag being ripped open, this seems impossible to say for certain. The OPA says that it did not interview this officer and several other key officers due to resource limitations. It is unclear how resources were limited, however, given that some of the interviews were conducted months after the fact, rather than right away, and former OPA Dir. Andrew Myerberg asked for and was granted investigation extensions. 

Hendry goes on to write briefly about the incident report. Here, he claims, “Officers developed probable cause to arrest the person possessing the Molotov cocktail in the crowd. SPD bike officers responded to the crowd to arrest the subject.”

However, this is not supported by the evidence: Smelling of gas does not appear to be probable cause to arrest someone, and it is never clear why officers decided to attempt to arrest the person in black clothes. Moreover, officers appear never to have sighted the person they eventually targeted for arrest actually carrying an incendiary device.

As the former OIG investigations supervisor also notes, Hendry chooses to include only portions of media reports about the day, specifically omitting any part of said media reports that could be seen as “unflattering” to SPD.

“[T]hese news articles are selected by the investigator, not provided by complainants/witnesses (no context given),” the former investigations supervisor writes.

The former investigations supervisor also notes regarding some BWV evidence included that an “[i]ndividual in civilian clothing appears from side of SPOG building and approaches officer, gives officer who just arrested protestor a fist bump and says ‘that was fucking awesome.’”

“Unsure if this was the friendly/undercover officer or an off-duty officer watching from SPOG. Investigator omits this from the officer’s BWV summary/timeline,” the former investigations supervisor writes.

The Emerald will examine the available BWV from this day in a future article, and compare it to what is written in the ROI.

Officer Interviews: “It Was An Improved Tactic?” “It Is Now”

Author’s Note: In the interest of brevity, the Emerald will not detail each officer interview in-depth in the direct body of the article. Instead, it will highlight important parts of each interview and link readers to separate documents containing in-depth breakdowns of each interview.

In addition to omitting unflattering segments of quoted news articles and a description of what the person in black clothes was actually carrying, Hendry also neglected to interview seven key officers involved in the day’s events, an omission the Emerald detailed in the first part of this article.

The 11 officer interviews Hendry did conduct appear to be rife with problems, not the least of which are the leading questions Hendry asks officers and the fact that he allows SPOG representatives to effectively give testimony when officers don’t give the answers Hendry appears to want to hear. The old OPA Manual, by which the interviews would have been guided at the time, states on page 30 that “[t]he primary role of a union representative during an OPA interview is to protect the contractual rights of the employee. 

“The OPA investigator may accommodate the union’s request to place any initial objections it has on the record before the investigator begins asking questions and should allow for the union representative to make objections where appropriate,” the manual reads. “These objections should be concise and should cite to the contractual or legal provision implicated by the question. Objections should not be disruptive, argumentative, leading, suggestive of an answer to the witness, prejudicial, insulting, profane, or speaking objections. Regardless of the nature of an objection, the employee is required to answer the question unless it is withdrawn by the investigator. The investigator should further provide an opportunity at the end of the interview for the union to ask any follow up questions it has and for it to place any final objections it would like to offer that were not previously made at the beginning or during the interview.”

On page 32, the manual states: “Before ending the interview, the investigator should ask if the interviewee has any other information about the incident or complaint they would like to provide, including whether they are aware of other witnesses. If an SPD employee is represented by their bargaining unit at the interview, the OPA investigator may invite the union representative to ask the interviewee questions, to which the OPA interviewer may ask follow-up questions as needed. When interviewing community members, the investigator should always make sure that OPA has current contact information for all complainants and witnesses and verify that this information is updated in the electronic case file. The investigator may inform community members that OPA may need to follow up with them if necessary to clarify information gathered during the initial interview.”

It is unclear whether this means that SPOG representatives may give testimony in place of interviewed officers, but given that the SPOG representatives are not the officers against whom allegations have been launched nor are they officially being interviewed as witnesses or involved officers, this seems unlikely — particularly given that the OPA Manual is clear and specific about what the SPOG representative may do and how they may do it. 

In almost every interview, too, before involved officers can speak, SPOG representatives open with the exact same statement, almost down to the verbiage: that the complaints are “vague,” that nothing has been specifically alleged against the officer being interviewed, and that the allegations appear to be a blanket summary statement to which SPOG takes exception.

In one of these interviews, too, an officer appears to admit that former OPA Dir. Andrew Myerberg retroactively OK’d the use of the front wheels of bicycles to shove — if not strike — people and appears to have done so in direct response to officers’ actions during the 2020 Labor Day protest. The Emerald will start with this interview.

Officer Anthony Morasco

Hendry interviewed Officer Anthony Morasco on Nov. 10, 2020. The SPOG representative in attendance was Sgt. Sean Moore, who also happened to be acting lieutenant for Morasco’s bicycle unit at the 2020 Labor Day protest.

Hendry commences asking Morasco questions but only gets a little way in before asking Moore if he would like to say something. Moore replies that the allegations are “vague” and not specifically about Morasco.

Hendry replies that he understands and continues to question Morasco. Hendry establishes that Morasco is part of the Community Response Group (CRG), a group of officers who do their work on bicycles, and is a bicycle-trained officer who has undergone crowd management technique training.

Hendry then asks Morasco to explain his understanding as a bicycle-trained officer with regards to physically using said bicycle for crowd control. Morasco explains that he has been trained to form a barrier with bikes and to push people with bikes. The latter, he tells Hendry, is a de minimis use of force and is a trained technique. This differs from using a bicycle as a weapon with which to hit people. Because of this, Morasco replies, using a bike to push someone is not a reportable use of force.

Hendry then shows Morasco clips from Morasco’s own BWV. There is some discussion regarding the back of the bike swinging around to hit a protester with a shield. This discussion, which includes Moore also asking Morasco questions, can be found in the linked in-depth interview above.

After this discussion, Hendry asks Morasco, “[J]ust point-blank, did you deliberately strike that protester with the shield with the rear-end of your bicycle?”

Morasco says no, he did not, and that he does not specifically recall this particular incident from that day.

“From the video, it looks like there might have been, and I don’t know, again, if that was me going forward or them coming towards me. It’s too hard to tell on the video,” Morasco says. When Hendry asks whether Morasco knew if he had hurt anyone with the swing, Morasco says that he doesn’t “see how anybody would be. It’s … a rubber tire.”

Hendry then moves on to slightly later in the video. He stops it just after 10-and-a-half minutes in, and says, “Your body-worn video shows you repeatedly pushing the front wheel of your bicycle into some crowd members. Is that accurate?”

“Yes,” Morasco replies.

“Okay. Is that a trained tactic?” Hendry asks.

“Uh, I’d say no, at this point. We’ve used our bikes to push people, but we kind of modified this one, and then it’s become a — told that it was good by Director Myerberg,” Morasco says.

“Okay, so you’re saying it’s — it was an improved[*] tactic?” Hendry asks.

“Uh, it is now,” Morasco replies.

Editor’s Note: *“Improved” here may be a misspeak or a typo in the transcript. From the context, it seems likely that “approved” was the intended word. 

This interaction, though short, is significant. It strongly suggests that Myerberg — the then-director of the agency with the most heft of the three agencies whose role is to hold the police accountable and the only agency that makes recommendations regarding discipline of officers named in complaints — OK’d a tactic by SPD officers that, at the time it was used, was not a trained tactic. It is unclear whether using an untrained tactic would have been a violation of policy, and SPD did not reply to this question. 

Regardless of whether the action could be considered a strike, this means that Myerberg may have effectively decided to retroactively sanction officer training tactics, meaning that officers apparently would not be held responsible for something that was, at the time they did it, a legitimate violation. However, if officer actions are added as approved tactics retroactively, it is unclear how an incident commander could know what his officers are doing in the field — even though the interviews in this case indicate the incident commander is responsible for said tactics, because they are supposed to know what their officers are doing in the field.

If this scenario did indeed play out, it is unclear why Myerberg would be determining which SPD tactics can and can’t be used in the field. 

Though the transcript lists his request as “unintelligible,” it appears that Moore breaks in here to ask Hendry whether he may, for all intents and purposes, give a small interview regarding bicycle tactics. Again, Moore is neither an involved officer nor a witness officer in this case, and he is not the interviewee. However, Hendry allows this and asks whether Moore can “shed some light” on the allegedly retroactively approved tactic, stating for the record that Moore is the acting lieutenant of the CRG.

Moore gives a substantial mini-interview, in which he essentially justifies what appears to have been Myerberg’s decision to retroactively OK a tactic that falls outside policy. Moore states that because “protester’s [sic] reactions evolved” and the police wanted to “stay within the core principles of the use of force,” the only other option available to officers whose hands were otherwise occupied with the physical bike was to use the “soft rubber tire” on a bike to push people.

“We look at that as a de minimis tactic to use a bicycle tire. We understand that if you swing it at somebody and it strikes somebody, what — what was the likelihood if somebody was going to be injured using that tactic?” Moore says. “And we found, we — we felt that this was a de minimis tactic. It has not been put into the crowd management, as far as I know yet. We anticipate that’s going to be a Management Action or — or a training update to the actual crowd control training.”

Readers can find this entire statement in the in-depth dive into Morasco’s interview linked above.

Hendry then asks Morasco what his desired outcome was from using the bicycle tire to push people. Morasco replies that he was trying to move people. He says that he used the bicycle tire to move them, because, in his opinion, they weren’t moving quickly enough.

“And was anybody in that particular group committing any crimes?” Hendry asks.

“I think they were all fairly dispersed at this point, so, riot — or, malicious mischief?” Morasco replies, appearing to grasp for the right alleged offense. Moore picks up the slack: “No, it’s a … Criminal mischief.”

When Hendry asks whether using the bike wheels was a reasonable use of force and whether it was necessary, Morasco replies that he believes it was, because it both moved the crowd and because “we went into this crowd because they had Molotov cocktails, which is obviously a life-threatening, uh, device, which they ended up throwing at us, uh, even as we’re moving them. Uh, and so, getting uh, them to move and not — to prevent them from harming anybody else was extremely necessary.”

As the Emerald has repeatedly pointed out, officers never confirmed during the protest that anyone in the crowd had Molotov cocktails and also never actually targeted for arrest the person who is now alleged to have had them.

Hendry then asks Morasco about his use of force, which Morasco maintains was de minimis and therefore did not need to be reported. Before Hendry closes the interview, he asks whether there is anything else Morasco would like to say. Moore jumps in again, this time to discuss officer intention for that day and to state that Morasco didn’t use any blast balls that day, just pepper spray. He also repeats multiple times that the day was “tense” for officers, in an apparent attempt to justify SPD’s response during the protest. Again, the Emerald will refer readers to the deeper dive into Morasco’s interview for Moore’s full statement.

Lieutenant James Dyment

OPA investigator Mark Grba interviewed Lt. James Dyment on Nov. 20, 2020. Joining Dyment and Grba in the interview was Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA) President Scott Bachler. The OPA chose to interview Dyment as a witness officer, rather than an involved officer — though it is unclear, even after this interview, whether Dyment ordered the arrest attempt of the person officers claimed was carrying an incendiary device.

Much of the interview between Grba and Dyment revolves around appropriate use of bicycle tactics. However, throughout this interview, Grba asks leading questions in a way that appears to steer Dyment into eventually comparing a rubber bicycle tire to the open palm of a human hand. This line of questioning can be found in the more in-depth article linked above. For the sake of brevity, the Emerald will not rehash it here in the main body of the article, but the line of questioning equates the front tire of a bicycle with a baton and a baton with an open hand.

It is also worth noting that Dyment begins the interview by firmly stating that pushing someone with the front wheel of a bicycle is an untrained tactic, but his firmness on this point quickly loosens throughout the interview. He eventually ends up saying that the front wheels of bicycles can be used to push people, depending on the context in which that untrained tactic is used.

Dyment’s interview also suggests that Myerberg retroactively greenlit this technique. At one point in the interview, Grba notes that officers who have complaints lodged against them receive notices and asks Dyment whether any officers in this case had reached out to him seeking clarification regarding whether they were allowed to use their front tire to push people. 

Dyment replies that a few have reached out and then says: “[T]hen we actually — and I don’t recall specifically who they [the inquiries] would be from, but we asked Director Myerberg to come.”

Though Dyment does not finish this thought, this appears to line up with what Morasco said about Myerberg retroactively green-lighting officers’ use of the front tires of their bikes to push people.

Later in the interview, Grba asks, “Do you believe that … you’re going to advise any type of changes to the training moving forward? Like, the next round of training, will you work with them on incorporating anything that’s been learned over these periods during the protests? The George Floyd ones.”

Here, Dyment again brings up Myerberg’s visit: “I think we should — we should address the — and that was one of the reasons why we had Director Myerberg come out and just discuss moving down — utilizing the bicycles.”

Again, this appears to back up what Morasco said during his interview.

At a certain point in the interview, Dyment also chooses to frame bicycles as a hindrance to officers, rather than a help, which he says would justify using them to push people. He also directly contradicts one of his statements in the interview, in the course of answering a question about power slides and whether police are trained to hit people with their bicycles.

Dyment also says that ultimately, it’s the incident commander — specifically, that day, Capt. Matthew Allen — who would be responsible for ensuring that the various uses of force in the field were documented. But when Grba asks how the incident commander would know what tactics the officers were using, Dyment replies that “they would know that we were using crowd control techniques — trained crowd control techniques were utilized to carry out their movements.”

This would appear to negate — or be negated by — what Dyment says about untrained tactics potentially being OK for officers to use in the field. If officers are effectively given carte blanche to use untrained tactics due to a “dynamic” situation or individual “context,” there would be no way for the incident commander to know what tactic they used, since it would not have been trained and thus not have been logged as a possible tactic prior to the event. Thus, it would appear to have been impossible for the incident commander to know who needed to report a use of force and who may have used their bicycle inappropriately. It’s unclear how it could be the incident commander’s responsibility to ensure that all uses of force were properly documented, unless he literally viewed every single officer’s BWV from that day. The “context” issues Dyment brought up and the idea that the incident commander is responsible for use of force reporting because he knows what trained tactics officers will use are at odds with each other. Both things cannot be true.

Grba does not note this.

Other Interviewed Officers

The Emerald will group the other officers the OPA interivewed into this section and pull out the highlights from each interview. These interviews mainly serve to bolster the false narrative that officers tried to arrest a person carrying Molotov cocktails. The interviews also demonstrate the leading questions OPA investigators ask, as well as how often OPA investigators allowed SPOG representatives to effectively give testimony in place of the officer the investigators were actually interviewing. One of these interviews also supports the suggestion that Myerberg retroactively green-lighted officers using the front tire of their bicycles to hit and shove people.

Officer Enoch Lee

Hendry interviewed SPD Officer Enoch Lee on Jan. 19, 2021. Also present was SPOG representative Sgt. Sean Moore and another SPD officer and member of the OPA, Sgt. Cliff Borjeson. According to the interview transcript, Lee was part of the North Bikes Team, working, he says, under a Sgt. Sylvester, who appears to be Sgt. David Sylvester, head of a CRG bike squad.

As with Morasco’s interview, Moore states off the bat that the complaint is vague and that there are “a lot of things” in it that “have nothing to do with Officer Lee. There’s nothing specific in here directed at his name or at his serial number right away. So SPOG would like to object to that.”

Hendry asks Lee several questions about receiving bicycle training in 2019, about the kind of tactics officers are trained in and Lee’s own understanding of when and how it is appropriate to use certain tactics for crowd control purposes.

Lee’s answers are fairly basic and straightforward: “[B]icycles are, um, very mobile and um, when used in a team dynamic, you can, um, be a lot more fluid and control crowds. … They’re utilized to, um, to make arrests effectively, and to, um, monitor … marches and protests. … [T]hey’re very fast, so if there’s a big crowd, a bicycle team can move in to the crowd and push through the crowd to make an arrest, rather than officers — officers just going in on foot.”

Hendy asks Lee what his understanding is of a bicycle as an impact weapon. Lee responds that he understands he can use it to protect himself and as a tool to move the crowd when ordered to do so by the incident commander. Lee says that if he were going to use his bike in a use of force (UOF) matter, “you could use it to push somebody, so you’d hold the bike stem and the — the seat post, and you’d raise it and then you’d push against somebody.”

Consistent with what Dyment said, this appears to mean that, at that time, officers were not trained to push the bike into somebody using the front tire. Rather, they appear to have been trained to push somebody with the entire bike frame, holding it parallel to their own bodies.

Lee says that such an action would be considered a Type I UOF, but that if he were to do such an action without explicit direction from the incident commander, the bike would then be considered an impact weapon. However, he said, the UOF would only be reportable if the person against whom it was used complained of pain.

When asked about what he remembers about the 2020 Labor Day protest, Lee says that he remembers that he and other officers received intelligence that protesters were possibly going to burn down SPOG headquarters. He says that he does not remember where he heard this, but that it could possibly have been at roll call or just from “other officers talking.”

Lee says that he cannot recall what his job or mission was that day. However, he goes on to describe in detail the events of the day, starting in the International District and ending up at SPOG headquarters. He also describes how he and other bicycle officers “facilitated” pushing the crowd north, following the explosion of what appears to have been a Molotov cocktail.

Hendry asks Lee if he can remember who told officers over the radio that someone had a Molotov cocktail. Lee says he can’t remember, but when Hendry asks who ordered bicycle officers to attempt to arrest the person in black clothes carrying a trash bag, Lee says he believes it was Lt. John Brooks. 

As readers may recall, the OPA never interviewed Brooks in any capacity, despite the fact that he was operations chief that day and in the car with incident commander Capt. Matthew Allen, relaying and forwarding on information both to Allen and to officers in the field.

Lee also remembers that the crowd appeared to be “there for battle” and describes the crowd and what he saw that day. He claims that officers were unable to arrest the person carrying Molotov cocktails. 

As the Emerald has repeatedly pointed out, the person targeted for arrest that day was not apparently carrying any incendiary devices, and officers never targeted for arrest the person later identified as allegedly actually carrying Molotov cocktails during the protest.

Hendry then plays a clip for Lee, which Hendry says appears to show Lee pushing someone with the front wheel of his bicycle. Lee says that he “hit him in — in — in the leg with my back tire, um, to motivate him to — to move faster.” Dyment’s interview established that this was not a trained technique at the time, and Lee repeats this.

Hendry then appears to try to steer Lee with what appear to be a series of leading questions regarding the bicycle training he had received. He starts with the idea that hitting someone with the front wheel of the bicycle “seems to be fairly consistent with tactics used by other bicycle officers. Have you discussed these tactics as a group?”

“I have not,” Lee replies.

Hendry then asks why Lee would “all of a sudden” use such a tactic against someone, to which Lee replies that he believed “it was like a low level of force” and that when he had tried to push someone with his hand, he almost lost control of his bicycle. 

“[T]his guy didn’t complain of any — any injury … so it was a, um, Use of Force that was not reportable to me,” Lee says.

When questioned, Lee says that the person was not committing a crime, not posing an immediate threat to Lee, other officers, or other protesters, did not commit property destruction, and was complying with officers’ orders to walk away. Lee’s only complaint was that this person was walking away in a manner that Lee viewed as slow, and thus he believed this person was trying to slow down officers. He says that “hitting” this person with the bicycle in the way that he did ended up making this person walk “faster after I gave him an additional push.” 

Hendry asks whether any other options were available to Lee at the time, to which Lee responds that he could have dropped his bicycle to push him. Hendry subsequently plays a video clip in which Lee pushes the protester again, this time with his left hand. Lee says that after he hit this person with his bicycle, this person was “jogging a little bit” but had slowed down, suggesting that this person may have been walking at a normal pace before Lee hit him with his bicycle.

Hendry also shows Lee another instance in which Lee pushed someone. Lee says he does not know what that person was doing, but that, from the video, it seemed as though “they were just in — in — in my way.” Hendry shows Lee another clip in which he once again pushed the person he had deemed to be walking too slowly. Lee says that this was again because this person had been walking too slowly. Lee tells Hendry that he did not report any of these incidents, because he did not view them as reportable UOFs.

For clarity and context, the Emerald would like to remind readers that at this point Lee and other officers were physically behind protesters and purposely driving them northward.

Hendry then asks whether Moore, the SPOG representative, has anything to add. Readers may recall that SPOG representatives are not given leave to testify in any capacity, via the OPA Manual rules in effect at the time. Rather, they are only allowed to ask questions in a manner that does not break into an OPA investigator’s control of the interview.

But Moore gives literal pages of testimony, both about bicycle tactics and the events of the day. Hendry does not stop him — in fact, Hendry even asks Moore a question about the events of the day and using the front wheel of a bicycle to push someone, even though Moore is not the one being interviewed.

Sgt. Matthew Didier

Hendry interviewed Sgt. Matthew Didier on Nov. 12, 2020. SPOG representative Sgt. Shane Anderson was also present at the interview.

Anderson starts the interview with almost the exact same objection as Moore did in Lee’s interview: “The complaint summary is entirely too vague. There’s no individual actions by Sergeant Didier that are listed within the complaint summary that would allow him to mount a defense to the allegations of wrongdoing when it comes to deploying pepper spray.”

Hendy shows Didier a clip of Didier pepper spraying a woman at the protest. When Hendry asks Didier why he pepper sprayed her, Didier claims that while it wasn’t captured on his BWV, officers to his right and behind him were attempting to arrest “an individual who was positively identified to be holding a Molotov cocktail” and that the woman he pepper sprayed didn’t move back when he ordered her to, thus she was interfering with the arrest.

As the Emerald has explained, the claim that the person officers attempted to arrest was positively identified as carrying a Molotov cocktail is false. BWV shows that the person targeted for arrest was instead carrying a trash bag full of trash.

Didier says that he doesn’t recall whether he specifically warned this woman about the pepper spray but says that “I believe at this point, after a summer-long protest, most of the protesters are the same people. If you see a bike officer say ‘move back’ and hold up a can of pepper spray, it is implied that the next thing that will happen if — and I —”

Here, Didier breaks off and appears to backpedal: “[A]lso, probably in that time period, I didn’t feel that it was feasible to give her the full warning of what would happen if she didn’t move back.”

Notably, as the Emerald pointed out in part one of this article, this same logic — the idea that an action’s implications should be clear based on past experience — does not appear to have been applied (particularly by incident commander Capt. Matthew Allen) to the decision to move in on a crowd to supposedly conduct a single, targeted arrest without issuing a verbal warning of any sort, since similar acts had, in past days, fairly consistently appeared to escalate tensions between police and protesters.

Though SPD’s policy manual states that officers need only issue a verbal warning of the use of a less-lethal weapon when feasible, Didier’s first answer also seems to imply that people should just expect to be be pepper sprayed in these kinds of situations and also expect officers to use whatever weapon — “less-lethal” or otherwise — that that they are holding.

Didier says that the pepper spray had the desired effect — “[S]he ran backwards, fell down dramatically, and then her friend drags her off to the rest of the crowd” — and that it was necessary and proportional to the woman’s actions. 

After all, he says, it was either the pepper spray or getting her to move back using other, less-savory methods: “[R]ather than sit there and get into a fistfight with this girl or hit her with my bike, the least intrusive way to do that would be to use pepper spray.”

Hendry continues to play the video, stopping it again at another part in which Didier pepper sprays two more people. Again, Didier says that pepper spraying these two people was the best option and that, given the situation — the supposed targeted arrest of a person who was allegedly carrying a Molotov cocktail — his decision to use pepper spray was both reasonable and proportional. He explains that he used pepper spray on the second person more than once, even though she “fell back,” after the first shot, because “she was the one that was directly in front of me.”

Again, he did not provide a warning of pepper spray deployment because he says he did not feel it was feasible to do so, in that situation. Once again, he defends this action by saying, essentially, that protesters should expect police to use pepper spray on them at this point in the protests.

“[A]gain, this is not the first time in the last six months that we had been interacting with these people in this manner,” Didier says. “Like, it is implied that a bike officer in full uniform, holding a can of pepper spray and telling you to move back if you don’t follow that, our first line is to use that force multiplier of the pepper spray to create that space that we’re trying to get. Because it is better for you for me to pepper spray you and you be uncomfortable for a little bit than for me to slam my bike into you to move you back for safety reasons.”

Hendry does not challenge the idea that police officers are limited only to using brute force or “less-lethal” weapons against people who aren’t moving quickly enough to suit them.

Didier says that after he pepper sprayed this second woman, a man in a red shirt threw a stick at him, after which he pepper sprayed him, too. The fact that the man threw a stick at him “was exactly why I wanted to move the crowd back, because if we let them stagnate, then they begin to throw objects at us.” 

Hendry shows Didier another clip of him pepper spraying into a crowd of people. Didier says that he was using pepper spray against the man in the red shirt, whom he was trying to arrest but who had fled into the crowd. Again, he says that it was not feasible to warn this person of pepper spray deployment.

Hendry shows Didier yet another clip, this time of Didier pepper spraying a group of people walking backwards with shields. Didier says that “[t]hese group of folks that had the shields with the umbrellas, when you look at Antifa tactics — and there is — actually, if you go back and look at some of the briefings, there are pictures where they show us the purpose of these folks. This is their shield brigade and umbrella unit.”

Didier goes on to explain that they are “purposefully defending and masking actions of other protesters, who are preparing to either assault or have assaulted officers,” which he says makes the situation unsafe. Again, he claims it was not feasible to warn them of pepper spray deployment, because “they were pretty much already in it with the officers, and so assaults were already taking place.”

Didier does not note that, as the Emerald has explained in its first article regarding this case, officers were the ones who moved in on the crowd and engaged in multiple arrest attempts. Again, Hendry does not challenge anything Didier says.

At the close of the interview, Hendry asks Anderson whether SPOG has “anything” rather than allowing Anderson to ask specific questions, which would have been required by the OPA Manual regulations in effect at the time.

Anderson launches into a short but pointed statement that mainly spears the City of Seattle’s government. His statement contains no questions at all.

“SPOG would just like to point out that for the last five to six months our city has sent our members out to defend against the actions of a riotous mob that is hellbent on injuring if not trying to kill our members, police officers, with minimal support from our command staff and zero support from our city leaders, with the lazy approach of bringing our members down here to thoroughly vet their actions, which were the actions that were directed by commanders, who are not held accountable for any of these protests, and the city government itself, who — who on one hand says that our actions are bad and yet expects us to be out there defending the city.

“So it seems like a lazy approach on behalf of the city and on behalf of the OPA to drag our members down here to go through their justification yet again, after having completed justifications of those force actions, and yet our commanders aren’t held accountable for it,” Anderson continues, before closing: “That’s all.”

Officer Scott Lapierre

Hendry interviewed Officer Scott Lapierre on Nov. 13, 2020. Also present was Officer Dan Auderer, representing SPOG.

Lapierre is the officer who claimed that he could not see the hands of a person he was arresting and thus says in his official statement that he decided to punch this person in the face in order to “distract him and obtain pain compliance.” As the Emerald detailed in this story, this claim does not appear to be true, though the OPA’s DCM also claims it was. According to official documents, BWV shows that the person’s left hand — the side Lapierre was on — was clearly visible.

The arrest is the main focus of Hendry’s questioning. Lapierre, like his fellow officers, maintains the claim that officers positively identified a person carrying a Molotov cocktail and thus attempted a targeted arrest of this person.

Lapierre said that the protester he ended up punching in the face was trying to blow pepper spray back at officers with a leaf blower. He claimed that this person, who was “actively resisting” arrest had both of his hands hidden beneath him and that “it was likely he was armed.”

As the Emerald just stated above, this is not true: The person’s left hand was visible.

“So I looked, kind of weighed my options and see what I could do to assist with taking this suspect into custody. Much of his body was covered, so I couldn’t really get into any other area. I contemplated deploying [pepper spray], but I felt it wasn’t a reasonable choice, based on the likelihood of spraying the officers as well and how close I would have to get to the suspect’s face for it to be effective,” Lapierre says. “So I punched him one time in the face. I obtained immediate compliance. I modulated my force and assisted the officers with taking him into custody. 

“I didn’t observe any injury to that side of his face,” Lapierre continues, “but when he was stood up, the other side of his face, which I did not touch, was bloody, so —” 

Here Hendry breaks in and cuts him off with, “Okay. Thank you,” and moves on in the line of questioning.

Hendry asks Lapierre whether he had been trained to strike or punch someone to “obtain pain compliance.”

“I don’t know specifically about pain compliance, but — I couldn’t tell you,” Lapierre says.

The only mention in the SPD Manual of “compliance” under Use of Force Definitions is in the de-escalation section, which specifically talks about the use of de-escalation techniques “to gain the voluntary compliance of subjects, when feasible, and thereby reduce or eliminate the necessity to use physical force.” The section points the reader to another section of de-escalation techniques, none of which, by nature, include punching someone in the face.

Nowhere in the manual does it talk about officers being trained to “obtain pain compliance” — which, given the fact that such a technique would be likely in certain cases to be considered a Type II UOF or above, seems a curious omission, if it were indeed a trained technique.

Officer Scott Lapierre claimed that this person, who was “actively resisting” arrest had both of his hands hidden beneath him and that “it was likely he was armed.” However, the footage above from Lapierre’s BWV shows that the protester’s left hand was visible.
Officer Scott Lapierre punches a protester in the face, in the course of assisting in the protester’s arrest in SoDo on Sept. 7, 2020.

Nevertheless, Lapierre says that he believes the force he used against the protester was reasonable, because the person “had already shown an attempt to assault officers, based on trying to blow [pepper] spray back at them. He was actively resisting in the middle of a riot. … And he was likely armed.”

Lapierre says that he did not see any reasonable alternative available to him at the time and that his actions were consistent with department training regarding a person “who refuses to provide his hands,” as Hendry puts it (even though, again, BWV shows that this person’s left hand — the side Lapierre was on — was visible). Lapierre also says that he does not believe that the person was injured as a result of the punch to the face and that this person did not complain of any injuries at the time.

Content Warning: The above video contains acts of violence.

After this happened, Lapierre says, he was knocked off his bike and broke his knee. He also says that someone kicked him in the head and that he suffered concussion symptoms. He tells Hendry that he lost work time, a total of about five weeks’ worth, due to his injuries.

Hendry also asks Lapierre about the bicycle training he had received and shows him a clip of Lapierre pushing his front wheel into someone wearing a backpack. Like other officers, he admits to pushing his front wheel into protesters but says that it was not a trained tactic. He also admits that this means he used the bike as an impact weapon. He says that he did this because “we had been in the riot for probably 15 minutes. … I was fatigued, and I was injured, and we didn’t have enough officers to effectively use our tactics which we had been trained on. Lieutenant Brooks was still saying move the crowd and keep them moving.”

As for the person he pushed with the front wheel of his bicycle, “they’re wearing a giant backpack. I would not expect that to cause an injury. I would not expect that to cause a complaint of pain. It was more of guiding them away from me, because I want distance from them. I didn’t want them to be close to me.”

Lapierre says he believes that person was committing a crime (failure to disperse) and that he posed an immediate threat, “because they’re in the middle of a riot, and they’re closing the distance on an officer.”

Again, it is worth mentioning that there is no acknowledgement of the fact that by moving in on the crowd for an unannounced, so-called “targeted arrest” attempt, SPD officers appear to have been the ones to escalate tensions that day.

Hendry shows Lapierre another clip, in which Lapierre pushes his front wheel directly into the back of another person. Lapierre defends this action by saying that while it was not a trained tactic, “[i]t’s something I learned from watching other officers do it over the months.”

Lapierre says that he doesn’t view this as using his bicycle as an impact weapon, because “I don’t think it was reasonably likely to cause an injury, and it’s a soft rubber tire filled with air.” Lapierre characterizes this as reasonable force against a person who he says “could be construed [to be posing an immediate threat] by remaining in a riot zone and not complying with officers’ verbal orders to leave the area.”

Lapierre says he only reported a UOF in the case of punching the person he arrested in the face and striking the person with the backpack, but that he is not sure if he reported a UOF against the third person into whose back he pushed the tire wheel. He admits he only reported any of this at a Sgt. Campbell’s order (it is unclear who he’s referring to here, but it may be Sgt. Ronald Campbell). He also admitted that he did not speak to any sergeant about using the front wheel of his bicycle against anyone and that Campbell never said anything specific to him about his UOF.

Hendry then asks, “Does SPOG have anything?”

Auderer does, in fact, ask questions, in line with the OPA Manual, but they appear to be leading ones (though less overtly so than the ones Hendry asks in other interviews). Auderer asks whether Lapierre was “ever trained to only use trained tactics when you’re on the street doing police work,” whether “not using a trained tactic” is a policy violation, and whether “not using a trained tactic make [sic] it not reasonable, not necessary, and not proportional.”

Lapierre answers, “No,” to all of these, an answer he repeats when Auderer asks the similarly leading question, “And then through all the crowd control training and through all the bike training that you’ve had, have you ever had training to deal with such violence over the course of months?”

Officer Caleb Howard

Hendry interviewed Officer Caleb Howard on Nov. 10, 2020, with SPOG representative Sgt. Sean Moore also present.

Howard assisted in the arrest in which Lapierre, whose interview summary can be found above, punched the person in the face.

Once again, Moore begins the interview with an objection: “So the summary is pretty vague, and Officer Howard is supposed to be prepared. He’s supposed to have a little bit more information about this when we do this.”

Moore then takes several minutes claiming that there was “nothing specific about what Officer Howard did,” with regards to excessive force or professionalism and throws in that the music SPOG President Mike Solan decided to blast that day had nothing to do with Howard.

“The allegations inside of here, they’re not very specific towards Officer Howard, and that would be my objection,” Moore repeats.

Hendry plays for Howard the video clip of Lapierre punching the person he arrested in the face, and asks Howard whether that is his hand seen punching the person. Howard replies that he does not recall. However, he says that he remembers saying something to the effect of, “Stop grabbing the fucking officer. Get your fucking hands off of him. Get your fucking hands out.”

Howard explains to Hendry that he used profanity in that situation, because the “situation was extremely escalated” and that just prior to the protest, as he was making his way down to SPOG headquarters, the officers rode underneath an overpass that had a banner hanging on it that read, “All my heroes kill cops.”

“It was very clear from the onset of this demonstration that they were there with an intent to be violent and to incite violence within themselves,” Howard contends. He states that he does not believe using profanity in any way undermined the public’s trust in SPD, himself, or other officers. He also says that he believes his comments were professional.

Like other officers, Howard also used the front tire of his bicycle to hit people.

But instead of asking Howard whether this was in line with his training, Hendry asks, “What was your lawful purpose for initiating this contact?” The setup of this question presumes that the contact was lawful when initiated, despite the fact that it was not a trained tactic to hit someone with a bicycle.

Howard says that his intention was to “go in and continue to move them back.” When Hendry asks whether that person had committed a crime, Howard says that he doesn’t recall but then moments later asks whether he can “back up on that.”

“So by virtue of being there after the dispersal order was given, absolutely they committed a crime. And then by virtue of not following orders and slowing down and slowing the group down, they were absolutely obstructing in police officers trying to move them. So, yes, they had committed a crime,” Howard says, by way of justifying why he hit that person with his front tire.

He also claims that the person was posing an immediate threat: “By virtue of being there after the group as a whole refused to leave, given the dispersal order, and the group as a whole had been verbally stating that they wanted to harm officers. Anyone in that group was deemed a threat at that point.”

Howard also says that the person was armed with a weapon, because he was holding an umbrella. He says that “I probably could have justified using pepper spray and chose not to do that,” even though this would have actually been a trained tactic.

Howard also gives testimony regarding trained bicycle tactics and says something that appears to also support the idea that Myerberg retroactively OK’d the use of front tires against people.

Hendry asks, “Did that training cover anything regarding the use of the front wheel?”

Howard answers, “The refresher training has. … And that happened long after this incident.”

Hendry then asks, “Were your actions at the time that you did this particular tactic on this date, was that action consistent with how you had been trained at the time?”

And Howard replies, “Yes.”

Notably, Howard answers in the affirmative, despite the fact that during the actual protest, hitting or pushing someone with the front wheel of a bicycle was not a trained tactic — a fact that other officers attest to in other interviews and that Hendry and Howard here manage to skirt with specific lines of questioning and ways of answering.

Howard also answers questions related to a person who hit him in the head, on the side of his face. In response to this, Howard says that he struck this person back with a closed fist. In this case, Howard says that he believes the decision to punch back was reasonable, necessary, and proportionate. He also says that there was no alternative course of action and that the person did not complain of any injuries or appear injured. However, unlike earlier, he says that his use of profanity in this situation was unprofessional. In explaining why he deemed this unprofessional but not his earlier use of profanity, Howard says that “I don’t think by saying what I said it accomplished anything to help benefit my cause in this case.”

It is unclear how using profanity earlier benefitted his cause, but Hendry does not address this.

Hendry plays a final clip for Howard, in which Howard can be seen walking towards someone who is lying on the ground. This is the same person, Hendry says, who hit Howard. According to Hendry, in the video, Howard yells, “You want to hit me, motherfucker? You want to fucking hit me? … That’s what I thought.”

Howard says that he recalls the person “just grabbing,” but “I don’t think he was swinging at any other officers … he was grabbing and then resisting by, you know, not — he wasn’t complying. He wasn’t putting his hands behind his back. He was resisting, grabbing, pulling, the usual.”

Howard says that he did not use retaliatory force against this person. He only used enough force to help arrest him.

Hendry then allows Moore to, in effect, give a mini-interview. Again, this appears to go against OPA Manual policy at the time. Notably, this is the same day Hendry interviewed Morasco, an interview at which Moore was also present and in which he also spoke at length. Howard’s interview happened just before Morasco’s, concluding about 30 minutes beforehand. 

In this miniature interview, Moore once again claims that someone had passed on intelligence about a person in the crowd who allegedly possessed Molotov cocktails. The Emerald has repeatedly refuted this, based on TAC9 audio and other available evidence.

Moore also says that he thinks that Howard’s conduct in the course of arresting the person was good: “[H]e did not use profanity towards him again. There was nothing — there was no physical force on him other than to put him in handcuffs. I think he did a great job of modulating after that point. That’s all I have.”

Officer Jonard Legaspi

Hendry interviewed Officer Jonard Legaspi on Nov. 10, 2020. SPOG representative Officer Derek Norton was also present. 

Legaspi is the same officer who deafened a local journalist and against whom the OPA did not end up sustaining allegations. Once again, the OPA ultimately decided not to sustain any allegations against Legaspi in this case, either, despite initially sustaining allegations against him according to the CCS, linked at the beginning of this article.

A substantial portion of the beginning of this interview is taken up by the same questions and answers regarding using the front wheel of a bicycle to strike and shove people, which Legaspi did during the protest. Despite the fact that it was not a trained tactic at the time, as his fellow officers — including a bicycle trainer — testified, Legaspi claims that using his front wheel was, in fact, a trained tactic.

“That … was training a long time ago. It was actually before using the sides of our bike to do a mobile fence line, because we used it … during Mardi Gras around 2001,” Legaspi says.

But then, when Hendry asks, “And was the use of the front wheel to push or bicycle as an overall impact tool, was that ever discussed?”

“I don’t remember. All I know is I remember the mobile fence line, but I don’t remember the front tire since way back when,” Legaspi says.

Hendry does not attempt to clarify these apparently contradictory statements, and Legaspi continues to repeat the claim that using the front wheel had been a trained tactic for decades. He also says that the front wheel of a bicycle during the protest was “just an extension of my hand, where I’m — where I’m, you know, holding it out, getting them to move faster.”

Legaspi says that he believes his force was necessary, reasonable, and proportionate, due to his perception that the person he pushed was posing an immediate threat “as far as being a distraction for other rioters in the crowd.”

Legaspi continues to repeat his assertion that while he used his front wheel against multiple different people, it was a trained tactic and that his use of it was necessary, reasonable and proportionate. He denied using it as an impact weapon, and says that he “was using it as an extension of my hand.”

“But if I were to take it, pick it up and actually either throw it at them or tilt it and hit them with it, that’s a — that would be an impact weapon,” Legaspi says. This is why he did not, he says, report any of his uses of the bicycle’s front wheel as a UOF, because they only counted in his eyes as de minimis uses of force by virtue of the front wheel, supposedly, simply being an extension of his hand.

His main justifications for using the front wheel were that people were not moving properly or quickly enough, and thus appeared to him to pose a threat. He says that there were no injuries that he knew of, and that he did not believe that the bicycle tactics used unnecessarily escalated the situation. However, he does admit that “I guess we were kind of moving a little faster than we thought” and that there is no law or policy requiring that people move at any particular speed, when ordered to disperse or move.

Finally, Legaspi also believes that he was justified in using what he calls the “F bomb” and that his use of profanity did not undermine public trust or confidence in himself or the department, especially since “profanity is a common theme throughout the United States right now. You see it in high school. You see it in middle school. And I’ve even seen it in elementary schools. They understand the language and it’s become a common vernacular for — for communication.”

Before the conclusion of the interview, Norton objects to “the vagueness of the classifications,” because he did not feel that “they accurately portrayed the violations.” He also throws in a few summary questions to Legaspi about the alleged Molotov cocktails and whether Legaspi would have made arrests “if it hadn’t been a riot situation,” to which Legaspi answers in the affirmative — “if,” he says, “it was safe.”

Officer Christopher Couet

Hendry interviewed Officer Christopher Couet on Nov. 12, 2020. SPOG representative Officer Dan Auderer was also present.

Auderer starts the interview with the same objection readers have seen throughout this article: that the complaint and summary are “too vague” for officers to prepare for the OPA interviews and that the complaints don’t “list the individual allegations against them in the summary, only in the policy violation.”

Couet tells Hendry that on Labor Day 2020, he was serving under Sgt. Joshua Ziemer. Readers may recall that Ziemer is the officer who eventually attempted to arrest the person allegedly carrying an incendiary device but whom the OPA never interviewed.

The focus of Couet’s interview, however, is not on the arrest attempt — it is unclear whether Couet participated in that to any extent — but on his arrest of another protester. Hendry says that Couet wrote in his statement about the arrest that he gave this person orders to leave the area multiple times, but that this person “continued to walk backwards slowly.” When he asks Couet to describe the manner in which the person was walking, Couet replies that the person was “in my path blocking me. He wasn’t disbursing [sic] the area, he wasn’t leaving. He was walking backwards slowly in an attempt to hinder my movement forward.”

Couet says that he gave this person several verbal commands to leave, and warned that he would arrest this person, if they did not listen. Couet confirms to Hendry that the group of people this person was walking with were allegedly committing, as Hendry puts it, “acts of conduct … which created a substantial risk of causing injury” to people. 

When Hendry asks specifically what they were doing, Couet says that before dispersal orders were given, this group had assaulted officers, causing one officer to break his knee, hitting another in the face with a metal pipe, and spraying a fire extinguisher into the face of a third.

“These individuals have been given a disbursal [sic] order and they were not disbursing [sic]. They were using team tactics to thwart the law enforcement purpose of getting this crowd to disburse [sic],” Couet says.

It is unclear whether the person in question was specifically involved in any of those acts — and, if not, whether this person was aware that any of these things had happened before joining up with this group and slowly walking backwards.

However, as Couet’s interview progresses, it appears to become clear that the person he ended up arresting was guilty of not leaving in the manner Couet wanted him to. He claims that this person was intentionally refusing or failing to obey the order to move — despite the fact that this person was moving away — and that he was also violating a public safety order in allegedly failing to leave.

Hendry mentions in the interview that, according to Couet’s BWV, “it appears [the protester] and others are moving in the direction that they were ordered to move and that officers were kind of pushing in that direction.

“Many officers were heard telling the protestors to hurry up, to run or to turn around,” Hendry says. “Are you aware of any law, policy or have you received any orders that require a crowd member to move or disburse [sic] at a particular speed?”

“No,” Couet replies.

“Has that been a source of discussion prior to working these events from the commanders of like how they want people to disburse [sic] and any orders given as to how fast to keep them moving for any particular reasons?” Hendry asks.

“There have been some orders from some commanders about moving crowds and at the preferred rate of people moving is to have their back to you so they’re not able to engage you with weapons or able to — able to (inaudible) spot people who are tuning in the crowd to throw objects at officers,” Couet replies. He goes on to explain that it’s difficult to attack officers when people are “fleeing in a more speedy clip than just a walk or even turn around facing backwards.”

When Hendry asks what stood out about the protester Couet ended up arresting, Couet says that he “was the closest individual to me. He had individuals grabbing onto him. He was verbally engaging me about my authority to get him to leave. And he was moving slowly. I needed to move the crowd. There was arrest happening. We needed to keep the line tight.” It would have been different, Couet says, if the person he ended up arresting had nowhere else to go, but said that this person “had every direction to go.”

Auderer asks a few questions, too, mainly about whether crowds are considered dispersing under certain conditions and the situation in which Couet conducted this particular arrest.

Officer Matthew Clark

Hendry interviewed Officer Matthew Clark on Nov. 12, 2020. Again present was SPOG representative Officer Dan Auderer.

Clark’s interview focuses on his use of bicycle tactics. He says that he is, according to the transcript, a “member of the Kings that are Bicycles,” though it is unclear exactly what this means. Clark explains that all the members of his unit are bicycle instructors and that “for the last couple years, I’ve gone and I’ve assisted in putting on our crowd control management courses with the bicycles.”

Clark says that all of their training tactics is “using de minimus force to use the bicycle, essentially, as a shield or a tool to push the people or object or whatever out of the way. It is not used as an impact tool as it’s trained in um — when we’re setting bike lines or we are doing power slides.”

Hendry asks whether, in training, Clark and his fellow instructors talk about when a bicycle is specifically classified as an impact weapon. Clark says that they do, and that an example of using the bicycle as an impact weapon would be if he were swinging his bicycle at someone or using it generally to forcefully hit somebody.

Hendry shows Clark a clip of Officer Christopher Couet’s BWV, and asks whether Clark himself is the officer seen in the video doing what appears to be, according to the transcript, a power slide. Clark says that he can, and says that the intent of doing said power slide was to “remove” an umbrella from a protester, because he perceived it as a safety threat due to the fact that the protester was using it to form part of a shield wall.

Clark says that he was “very clear and decisive … with my actions here to get the crowd to move” because officers allegedly had intelligence about a Molotov cocktail within the crowd. Notably, this differs from the multiple Molotov cocktails that other officers alleged having intelligence about.

Hendry asks whether Clark deliberately pushed the back wheel of his bicycle into people. Clark says he did, but not for use as an impact weapon. He admits that the back wheel may have hit someone in the crowd, but he was not certain, and the crowd had umbrellas and shields. He says that his actions were consistent with training, and that, to his knowledge, he did not injure anyone.

Hendry then brings up the second allegation against Clark, specifically that Clark used force against someone but that he did not report it. It is not entirely clear what exactly happened, but Clark and Hendry breeze through talking about it, with Clark stating that he did not report using a power slide as a use of force, because “the technique is not a use of force.” It is unclear whether Clark, in using the power slide, hit people with his bicycle, though Auderer questions him regarding where officers are trained to initiate the tactic in relation to a crowd’s placement.

As noted at the beginning of this article, the OPA did not answer a single query in the list of detailed questions the Emerald sent to the oversight agency. Interim Dir. Gráinne Perkins’ email bounced back an automated reply directing the Emerald to contact Assistant Dir. Katelyn Wieliczkiewicz. Wieliczkiewicz also did not reply to the Emerald. The Emerald once again reached out to Perkins the following morning on April 5, and received the same automated reply. The Emerald also once again reached out to Wieliczkiewicz, who replied to the Emerald, “Thank you for looping back and checking in. OPA has no comment on this story.”

The Emerald will continue this series of articles with an examination of available BWV.

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Carolyn Bick is a local journalist and photographer. 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.

📸 Featured Image: The moment Officer Scott Lapierre pushes his front bicycle wheel directly into the back of another person in a screenshot recorded by Lapierre’s BWV. Lapierre says in an OPA investigation interview that he doesn’t view this as using his bicycle as an impact weapon, because “I don’t think it was reasonably likely to cause an injury, and it’s a soft rubber tire filled with air.”

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