Seattle protester hospitalized after arrest; police release bodycam video

SEATTLE — Multiple groups of protesters hit the streets in Seattle Wednesday night. Some were calling for all votes to be counted while others continued to march for Black Lives Matter.

But in a protest outside the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct, police arrested seven people. One person who was arrested got seriously hurt and ended up in the hospital in critical condition.

On Thursday, the 30-year-old’s condition was upgraded to “serious,” but he was still in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center. As of Friday morning, his condition was upgraded to “serious.”

Attorneys already representing protesters in a lawsuit against the City of Seattle said in a statement, “Our legal team is upset and appalled by this incident.”

Attorney Karen Koehler identified the protester as Kel Murphy-Duford.

“Kel and his protest buddy were basically jumped (by police),” Koehler said in a Zoom call.

In a blog post Thursday morning, Seattle police said officers were “Arresting a 30-year-old for property damage… when the suspect appeared to be experiencing a medical issue.” The incident happened at 12th Ave and E. Pine St just before 10 p.m.

SPD later updated the website in the afternoon, saying, “SPD Force Investigators have learned the subject’s medical episode was potentially related to a substance the subject had ingested prior to police contact.”

Koehler says witnesses are sharing a very different version of what happened.

“They saw Kel being thrown to the ground. They saw and heard his head hit the ground. They said it made a crack sound,” Koehler said. “Witnesses said from the moment Kel hit the ground - the moment his head hit the ground, he never moved.”

Video shows Murphy-Duford laying on the ground outside the East Precinct. “We are making a legal arrest here. There has been property damage committed. As a result, we are taking proportionate action,” Seattle Police said over a loudspeaker.

Koehler said video shows officers kept others in the protest group -- which included volunteer medics -- away from Murphy-Duford, and that Seattle Fire reached the scene 15 minutes after the incident. She said it was another 15 minutes before he was taken to Harborview.

“If someone is having a life emergency, that’s a long time,” she said. “The coincidence of a 30-year-old with no preexisting history of medical issues going into seizure and having head trauma - the doctors will figure that out,” Koehler said.

Koehler said Murphy-Duford is still intubated and only showing some signs of consciousness.

“If this is the result of somebody doing graffiti, and you’re going to arrest them in this manner, then we have a huge horrible problem with our police department,” she said.

“If what we’re told by our witnesses is true, this is absolutely inexcusable, aggressive, irresponsible, terrible policing. And if true, it should be prosecuted,” Koehler said.

The statement from attorneys said Murphy-Duford is represented by Cedar Law PLLC and Stritmatter Law Firms and that he is a member of their Protester v. Seattle litigation.

“We are requesting that anyone who saw the actual (alleged) assault by the police upon K. to please come forward and provide a statement,” the law firms said.

Seattle Police released body camera video late Thursday afternoon. Watch it below (warning, the video may contain graphic and disturbing content).

Police said the person did not sustain any “physical injuries” while being arrested.

Force Investigation Team investigators will have 30 days to put together their case, which is then presented to the Force Review Board.

Learn more about the SPD Force Investigation Team (FIT) here.

A spokesperson with the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) said they have not initiated an investigation as of Thursday evening. The director responded to the case on Wednesday night and watched some of the available video, and “did not see any evidence of clear misconduct that would warrant OPA opening an investigation on its own,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said they’ve since received enough inquiries that it’ll only be a matter of time before there’s a formal complaint filed and subsequent investigation.