SEATTLE — An off-duty police officer who stepped on a man’s head following a 2010 bar brawl was cleared of wrongdoing, Seattle police said Tuesday.
Officer Garth Haynes was cleared of any police department misconduct in the 2010 case, in which the officer was involved in a fight outside a Belltown bar.
Interim Police Chief Harry Bailey recommended clearing wrongdoing after two medical experts stepped forward alleging a concussion from the bar brawl may have contributed Haynes’ actions.
On Dec. 12, 2010, Haynes was waiting outside a Belltown bar off-duty when he noticed a woman walking outside of the bar with his friend’s jacket. Though the woman gave the jacket back when they approached her, Haynes suspected the women was trying to steal the jacket, and showed his badge and stated he was responding to a theft.
Others standing outside the bar became involved, police said, and the situation quickly escalated into a fistfight. SPD officers responded, pulled Haynes out of the melee and detained three men. As one of the men lay face down on the ground, video showed Haynes press the suspect’s head down against the ground with his foot.
After the video was released, the City Attorney’s Office charged Haynes with assault for stepping on the man’s head. But expert witness testimony produced by Haynes’ lawyers claimed Haynes had suffered a concussion in the fight, and the injury combined with a heightened state of agitation contributed to Haynes being out of control with his actions. The jury acquitted Haynes of the misdemeanor assault charge.
Haynes was still slated to undergo a 10-day suspension without pay even after the acquittal. But the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild contested the suspension, leading to further investigation. The City Attorney’s Office did indeed find that Haynes suffered a low-level concussion during the brawl, which may have contributed to his lack of control and ability to understand the situation.
SPD released a statement Tuesday announcing the decision to drop misconduct charges, saying in part “Haynes likely experienced transient confusion which presented him from acting volitionally immediately after the attack.”
To read the SPD’s full statement on the decision, click here.