YAKIMA, Wash. – A Yakima police officer who was videotaped kicking a 17-year-old boy who had been pepper-sprayed will not face criminal charges.
Officer Ian Cole acted in a reasonable manner after the boy refused orders to get on the ground as police broke up a fight at the Central Washington State Fair on
Sept. 23, Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Brusic said Tuesday.
“I hereby find that YPD Officer Cole reasonably believed he had to utilize this push kick to control (the boy) and bring a prompt resolution to the situation to preserve his and others safety,” Brusic wrote in a three-page letter. “His use of force, namely the pepper spray and one kick to the back, was reasonably and necessarily used to enforce compliance with his commands and to prevent further injury from all involved and/or watching the fight.”
But that may not be the last word, as the attorney representing the boy said the family will file a claim against the city.
“Our version of what happened is the truth, and that is not changing because of the efforts of the police department to justify their misconduct,” said Yakima attorney Bill Pickett.
Pickett also renewed his calls for an independent civilian review board to look into such complaints, rather than having the police investigate its own officers.
Cole and Officer Kevin Cays were on foot patrol at the fair Sept. 23 when they were told about a fight. They ordered the crowd to disperse, according to Brusic’s letter.
The officers used pepper spray on the remaining people and ordered them to get on the ground, but the boy refused, Brusic said.
Cellphone video posted online shows Cole kicking the boy once in the back, knocking him to the ground, while Cays orders people to stay back.
Yakima Police Department’s Major Crime Unit conducted a criminal investigation into the incident and passed its findings on to Brusic, said interim Chief Gary Jones. The department is preparing to convene a use-of-force review board with officers from outside the department to perform an administrative review, Jones said.
Cole remains on desk duty until the administrative investigation is complete, Jones said.
But Pickett said the YPD’s investigation overlooked what he described as obvious police misconduct and instead tried to blame the boy — who, according to Pickett, was trying to wipe the chemical spray from his eyes when Cole kicked him to the ground.
“If they want to find the truth, empanel a citizen review board to investigate these things,” Pickett said. “Instead of apologizing for the misconduct, (YPD) has done what they have typically done: deny, double-down and force litigation.”
Jones and Brusic defended their investigation as objective and based on interviews with witnesses and a review of the video. They said a civilian panel would not produce a better result.
Brusic said a board of civilians would more likely be swayed by the clamor that the incident raised on social media than a prosecutor, who is elected by the people and required to abide by legal standards.
“I don’t try to find a way to not charge an officer because he’s law enforcement, or I don’t look for a way to prosecute this officer because people are angry about what they see on video,” Brusic said. “I make the right decision based on reason. I stand by that.”
Brusic, who is still reviewing three officer-involved shootings from December, said this case was addressed first because the investigation was not complicated and the video’s posting on social media and the public reaction to it.