Seattle officer accused of excessive force won't be charged

Seattle officer accused of excessive force won't be charged
This still frame taken from video footage shows Officer Clayton Powell lunging at a handcuffed man inside a holding cell.
SEATTLE -- A veteran Seattle police officer accused of using excessive force during a 2012 arrest will not face any criminal charges, according to Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes.

Based on the analysis of the city's use-of-force expert, Holmes said Clayton Powell will not be charged with misdemeanor assault for pushing 18-year-old Ismail Abdella.

On August 2, Powell and other officers responded to an assault call in the 3700 block of of South Othello Street in Seattle. During the investigation, roughly 25 young men gathered and began taunting the officers, according to Holmes.

Powell got into a heated argument with Abdella, and the confrontation soon became physical.

A video of the incident shows Powell shoving the teen, at which point another officer stepped in and handcuffed him. As Abdella was being cuffed, Powell grabbed his hair and pulled his head back.

Later, inside a South Precinct holding cell, a police surveillance camera shows Powell throwing a punch and stopping just short of Abdella's face.

That confrontation happened almost immediately after the department agreed to reform its use-of-force policies. A federal investigation found Seattle officers routinely used excessive force and showed evidence of biased policing.

Holmes said the city's use-of-force expert, Gregory Yacoubian, who's a lawyer in Los Angeles and former LAPD lieutenant, determined it was not "substantially likely" that a jury would convict Powell of misdemeanor assault.

While he did not believe charges should be filed, Yacoubian questioned Powell's fitness to be a police officer.

"Powell's conduct certainly calls into question his fitness as a law enforcement professional, and may even rise to criminal violation of civil rights under color of law," he said in his report.

He also had significant concerns about the police department's culture, "including its apparent acceptance of Powell's conduct, its failures regarding supervision and management of its officers, and the lack of objectivity and sufficiency of its internal investigation," according to the report.

In his own statement, Holmes said he finds Powell's behavior "extremely troubling," but he has to exercise due diligence and fairness when it comes to making charging decisions.

In February, Abdella's lawyers filed a legal claim against the city, marking the first step in a potential lawsuit asking for $500,000 in damages.

The August 2 incident was hardly the first time Powell has come under scrutiny. Documents from his personnel file say mistakes, excessive force and bad language kept him off the force for a time.

While his discipline record is clean, several documents raised more questions about how Powell became an officer in the first place.

In a Wednesday statement, Abdella's lawyer, Christopher Carney, said he's disappointed that Powell isn't being charged.

"We are disappointed by the City Attorney's decision, but it will not affect our plans to hold Officer Powell and the Seattle Police Department accountable for their actions through a civil rights lawsuit. We certainly share the concern that Officer Powell is unfit for duty, and furthermore that he was ever hired by the Seattle Police Department in the first place. We look forward to our client's day in court," the statement reads.