This video, posted by Real Change, is enraging. Using body cam footage, the newspaper and Black Fuji Studios pieced together key moments that reveal what appears to be an extremely biased March 2019 investigation by officers who responded to a call for help. I have not reviewed any extra footage, so I can’t report on anything beyond what’s in this Real Change video. But it’s pretty damning.
Witnesses, who happen to be Department of Corrections officers, tell responding SPD officers that the person driving was likely at fault and continued driving even after hitting the man biking on a Sodo street. It’s difficult to piece together the exact circumstances of the collision from the video, though witnesses say the man driving was going fast and should have seen the person on the bike.
But then SPD Officers Hagan, Pitzner and Gore mocked and laughed at the victim because he appeared homeless and tried to find reasons to give the injured man citations. The officers then let the man drive home without a citation. The injured man had to undergo knee surgery and had a fractured rib, injuries the responding officers seemed to find very funny.
“Is he gonna make it?” asked Officer Gore while the man was still in pain on the ground next to them. Gore and several other officers laughed. Is the joke that he’s in pain but not dying? How is that funny?
The officers then joke about wanting to see the video because “it was a good hit,” as one witness put it. This was also considered funny.
Officer Pitzner decided that the injured man needed to be cited for biking without a helmet. Helmet use is required in Seattle, but helmets never cause or prevent collisions. It is irrelevant to finding fault in a collision investigation.
Officer Pitzner then tried to pin a felony theft charge on the injured man by trying to figure out if he stole the Lime e-assist bike he was riding. The officer said the e-bike is worth $2,000, making it a felony if it is stolen. He asked another officer to search the injured man’s phone to see if he unlocked the bike legitimately. Investigating someone for theft based on how they look is a pretty clear case of baised policing. There seems to be no indication that the bike is stolen, and one of the other officers even notes that because the lights are on, it was unlocked properly. These Lime-E bikes must be switched on using the app before the lights and battery-powered motor will function. Simply cutting the lock will not switch them on. But even if it were stolen, theft of a bike is not a contributing factor to a collision.
But most of all, this video shows how stacked the deck is against people who appear to be experiencing homelessness. This person was injured while biking in a part of the city that is lacking safe bike infrastructure, then the responding officers did what they could to not only pin the whole thing on him, but also find more irrelevant charges to tack on.
What you see in this video isn’t justice, and it isn’t public safety.