Kirkland, WA – The YMCA of Greater Seattle has accused the Kirkland Police Department (KPD) of using “excessive force” while arresting a combative teen inside a youth recreation facility in September (video below).
According to the YMCA, KPD officers violated the safe space that employees at the Teen Union Building (KTUB) strive to create, KOMO reported.
KPD spokesperson Kellie Stickney said that the officers were justified in responding to the youth center to apprehend the wanted suspect.
“We think the facts clearly demonstrate that they were,” Stickney told KOMO.
According to a joint statement from KPD Chief Cherie Harris and Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett, the KTUB is a “city owned facility operated under contract by the YMCA.”
The series of events began at approximately 12:40 p.m. on Sept. 5, when a Juanita High School school resource officer (SRO) was alerted that a group of teens were planning to attack a student, according to the joint statement.
The group of teens was also accused of trespassing on school grounds.
“The SRO was told that the young men had been asked to leave the campus multiple times by staff,” the statement read. “The SRO initiated an investigation, and the young men fled school property.”
Four more calls involving the group of teens came in to the 911 dispatch center that day, police said.
One caller reported that a teen dressed in a red shirt and khaki pants stole a package from outside a home.
The homeowner’s doorbell camera captured the offense, and police were able to obtain a photo of the suspect to disseminate to on-duty officers, according to the joint statement.
Police also received reports that the group stole a tip jar from a local business, and that they stole property from a citizen at a local transit station.
The victim from the transit station later spotted at a suspect entering the KTUB and alerted police.
According to investigators, the description of the suspect matched the individual in the doorbell camera photo, and also matched the description police had been receiving of the suspect throughout the day.
Security footage showed the teen playing on a drum set inside the KTUB as officers arrived at the building.
Another teen allowed police inside the facility, where they were immediately met by an intern, according to the joint statement.
The intern then escorted the officers to the room where the suspect was playing the drums.
Although the room had a security camera, the video released by the YMCA did not show the officers as they made contact with the 14-year-old suspect.
They did release footage of what occurred outside the room.
The video showed the teen as he emerged from the doorway, pulling away from the officer with his fist clenched.
The officer maintained his hold on the suspect from behind, then quickly spun him around and took him to the ground while keeping his head from hitting the ground.
The teen continued to resist the officers by pulling his arms and legs towards his torso, but he ultimately rolled onto his stomach and was taken into custody.
Officers later learned that the 14-year-old boy had an outstanding warrant out of Everett.
The KPD also charged him with third-degree theft.
Chief Harris launched an internal investigation into the arrest later in September, after the YMCA notified Triplett and Kirkland Mayor Penny Sweet that they were concerned about how police handled the incident.
The ongoing investigation includes “a formal use of force review, interviews of witnesses, a review of the police report, 9-1-1 calls, and multiple video recordings from KTUB,” according to the joint statement.
According to Stickney, the YMCA refused to provide KPD with security footage of the incident until Oct. 29, which further delayed the investigation, the Kirkland Reporter reported.
City leaders have also met with members of the YMCA several times to discuss their concerns and to provide background information about the incident, according to the joint statement.
But according to YMCA of Greater Seattle President and CEO Loria Yeadon, the city isn’t doing enough.
"We’re disappointed at the City’s lack of timely action,” Yeadon said in a statement to KCPQ. “We feel it is necessary to bring this incident to the community to encourage the City of Kirkland to immediately complete its investigation, take appropriate disciplinary action, and improve protocols in the future to ensure the safety and respect for all."
Yeadon declared that the officers’ “behavior and the level of force were unacceptable and cannot be condoned anywhere in our community, especially in a safe place for teens,” KCPQ reported.
Program director Antoine Jackson said that one of the officers swore at him when he offered to help them during the boy’s arrest, KOMO reported.
“[They] slammed him to the ground, pushed his head to the floor, and with a knee in his back, handcuffed him to the ground,” Jackson said.
“I immediately let the officer know I was the center director, that I was here to assist, to try and deescalate the situation as much as possible,” Jackson told the Kirkland Reporter. “The officer responded to me by telling me to ‘get the f--k out of his face, and to back up.’”
Triplett and Chief Harris said in their joint statement that the officer “admits to swearing.”
“This is not acceptable behavior in this situation,” they said. “The Kirkland Police Department acknowledges this and will respond appropriately.”
The YMCA said the one of the officers also pointed a Taser at another teen during the altercation, KOMO reported.
The YMCA has demanded that the KPD discipline the officers involved, and said that the entire police force should undergo additional training, KOMO reported.
“The emotional impact of an incident like this will stick with people forever,” Yeadon declared. “We say no more – no more.”
Yeadon also noted that the officers involved in the arrest were white, and that Jackson and the two teens involved in the complaint were all black, The Seattle Times reported.
“I am calling for better, and asking for more, of the people who serve our community,” she said. “We’d also like to see better sensitivity and bias training.”
KCPQ reports that one of the staff members was unable to return to work after experiencing the trauma of the event.
Triplett and Chief Harris said the city is working to “develop better systems for responding to these types of situations.”
“We understand that it is human nature to experience events differently based on our backgrounds and circumstances,” their statement read. “We take very seriously the ways in which this event was experienced by KTUB staff and youth. Kirkland is committed to continuing an ongoing dialogue to increase understanding of our differing perspectives and make any necessary changes to create deeper, stronger relationships.”
You can watch a portion of the officers’ encounter with the combative teen in the video below: