A man was hospitalized on Wednesday night after being arrested for his participation in property destruction during a march through Seattle’s Capitol Hill.
Kel Murphy-Duford was taken to Harborview Medical Center on Wednesday night in critical condition. As of this morning, his condition has improved to satisfactory.
Duford has yet to regain consciousness, and his lawyer is already battling with the Seattle Police Department about how events unfolded leading up to Duford’s hospitalization.
Footage of the events was captured by both SPD body cams and a Capitol Hill resident by the name of Marcus Kulik, who stationed an around-the-clock livestream video from his window this past summer to capture protest activity.
Here is what is currently undisputed: On Wednesday night, around 60 ENDD (Every Night Direct Demonstration) protesters marched through Capitol Hill. Just before 11 PM, a team of bike cops descended on the protesters and arrested several, among them Kel Murphy-Duford.
At some point during the arrest, Duford went unconscious and was transported to Harborview Medical Center for treatment.
SPD made a total of seven arrests for obstruction, pedestrian interference, property damage, resisting arrest, and assaulting a police officer.
Outside of these facts, stories differ widely.
“This appears to be a clear case of excessive force,” said Duford’s attorney Karen Koehler. Duford is already a party to a lawsuit against SPD for injuries he sustained during protests on July 25th.
According to Koehler, based on witness testimony:
“When they got around to the East Precinct last night, the protest buddy says that both of them were basically jumped and as he was going down, Kel was going down separately. A different protester witness who saw the whole thing happen, saw the officer knocking Kel to the ground with extreme force and heard the crack as (his head) hit the pavement. At that time, Kel went limp and face down and stopped moving, never moved again.”
Kulik, the Capitol Hill resident who caught the events on camera from his window, says that police “essentially body slammed (Duford), it looked like they came down with the full force of their body.”
Kulik also says that in the video, an officer raised his arm and struck Duford. “When they finally cleared away,” he said, “this person was not moving at all, to be honest we thought they were dead.”
Koehler compared her client’s situation to that of George Floyd:
“As Kel was not moving, Kel was jumped on by five more officers who are believed to be bicycle officers. At that point, the protesters around started yelling, and just as we saw with George Floyd, the police kept the protesters at bay, did not allow protesters to assist, including medic protesters. They shined their lights to keep the protesters from being able to get good footage and kept them away.”
Both Koehler and Kulik contend that police did not engage in any type of aid for 15 minutes.
The SPD released body cam footage of the event on Thursday. They descended on protesters and began making arrests after the crowd of 60 engaged in property damage during their march.
In an official statement, police say that Duford suffered no physical injuries from the arrest and that the medical emergency may have occurred due to an unknown substance ingested by Duford prior to contact with police:
“SPD Force Investigators have learned the subject’s medical episode was potentially related to a substance the subject had ingested prior to police contact. The subject was treated at the scene by a Seattle Police EMT, and was then treated by Seattle Fire Department medics prior to being transported to the hospital.”
The SPD Force Investigation Team is investigating the incident.
In the body cam footage, an officer takes Duford to the ground in an attempt to arrest him. The video has sound, but there is no “crack” as described by Duford’s lawyer. Additionally, Duford struggles on the ground while police tell him to relax and inform him that he is under arrest.
As soon as the police recognize Duford has gone unconscious, they place him in a “recovery position” and check his pulse and his breathing. Medics are called, and officers can be heard on video comforting Duford, telling him, “Just breathe easy, alright? We’ve got somebody coming to take a look at you, okay? Just relax.”
The Office of Police Accountability was alerted to the event by midnight and immediately began analyzing the evidence.
Director Andrew Myerberg has said that there is not enough evidence at this time to open an official investigation:
“What we can tell from that video is that when the protester is taken down to the ground, first the protester has a helmet on – there’s no indication that the protester’s head makes contact with the pavement, let alone a crack. We don’t hear that on the video…and for about almost 30 seconds after the takedown, the individual is moving around and resisting officers when they’re trying to handcuff him.
I want to be super clear for people. I’m not saying that it was inside or outside policy right now – what I’m saying is that I’m not seeing any evidence of clear misconduct that would warrant an OPA opening an investigation. It is very possible that people could offer more evidence, that witnesses who come forward with different perspectives; we want to see and hear all that information. So there is no decision made at this point. The only decision that I’ve made is to not initiate (an investigation) on my own but to wait for a complaint to come in.”
Koehler is continuing to fight SPD’s story, calling their claims “libelous” and “an attempt to turn public attention away from police misconduct.”