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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Roll over or I will Taser you again. Blacks Tasered While Black in Seattle

"Police! Roll over or I will Taser you again!"

H/TArticle Source: thestranger.com

Just after 1:00 a.m., following a late-night game of basketball in August 2006, Aaron Claxton and his cousin, Leroy Gibbs, now both 22, drove to Claxton's house in North Seattle. As they drove through the backstreets of Claxton's quiet Lake City neighborhood, a black Chevy Suburban followed close behind. According to court documents, as Claxton pulled into his garage, the Suburban sped up and pulled in front of the house. The two young men ran inside, followed by four men with guns, court documents say. Moments later, Claxton shook uncontrollably and fell to the ground as he was repeatedly Tasered. "Police! Roll over or I will Taser you again!" Claxton heard one of the men say.

According to police reports, Claxton drew the attention of one of the Seattle Police Department's undercover Anti-Crime Teams (ACT)—undercover units that handle street-level crime—as it patrolled North Seattle. According to the report, Claxton sped through the neighborhood and failed to stop at a stop sign. Minutes after officers allegedly witnessed Claxton's erratic driving, the young man found himself on the receiving end of an officer's Taser. He would also later be charged with obstruction, as well as cited for speeding and running a stop sign.

Now, more than a year later, all charges against Claxton—who is black—have been dropped because, court records say, of a "lack of proof." He has filed suit in federal court for false arrest, malicious prosecution, violation of constitutional rights, and assault.

This isn't the first time the SPD has been to court over alleged misconduct. Ever since a wheelchair-bound man accused two officers of roughing him up and planting evidence last January, the SPD has been besieged by very public and frequent accusations of misconduct. The wrongful arrest of a young photographer, and the multiple Taserings of Carl Sandidge ["Gil's Boys," Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, July 5] are just a few of the cases—typically involving young black men—that have captured headlines and the attention of local attorneys, civil-rights groups, and even the FBI.

Perhaps one of the most widely known cases is that of Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, who was beaten by police in front of a Capitol Hill nightclub in 2005 ["Face Off," Darrin Burgess, April 21, 2005]. Alley-Barnes filed a lawsuit against the city, and in November the SPD paid him a settlement of $180,000.

According to data from SPD's Office of Professional Accountability (OPA)—which investigates citizen complaints against officers—there hasn't been a surge in reports of misconduct. However, those with grievances may be looking elsewhere for help. James Bible, president of the Seattle-King County chapter of the NAACP and a vocal critic of the Seattle Police Department, says his organization receives complaints about officer misconduct every week, and the number of complaints it receives is growing. More HERE

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