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WATCH: Seattle teacher on phone pepper-sprayed by officer as he walked by police line

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SEATTLE -- A Seattle school teacher is suing the city after being pepper-sprayed by a police officer as he walked by a police line during protests on Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan. 19.

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The incident in the South Lake Union area was caught on camera. Police were blocking streets with their bicycles and shouting for protesters to get back.

That's when Jesse Hagopian says he was hit in the face with pepper spray as he was talking on the phone to his mother and walking by the police line.

"I yelled out, my mom was in distress as she heard me yell and couldn't see me," Hagopian said at a news conference Wednesday to announce his lawsuit against the city.

Hagopian's lawyer, James Bible, said, "It was an irrational action, and that's why we're here." He is suing the city of Seattle for $500,000 in damages.


Hagopian says he spoke out at a peaceful protest earlier in the day and he believes Seattle police targeted him.

City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant is backing the suit against the city.

"I've asked the SPD leadership to explain why such force and intimidation has been used so consistently against the activists in the Black Lives Matter movement," she said.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said the city has worked to create a "comprehensive and transparent police accountability system." Murray added that "the uses of force that occurred during the MLK protests are currently under review and being investigated."

Hagopian said he believes Seattle police need to be held accountable for their actions, and Bible said his client will no longer cooperate with an internal police investigation.

"I want everyone to watch that video and see for themselves," Hagopian said.

Seattle police said they have no comment because there is pending litigation.

The raw video below was released by Hagopian's attorney. Warning: This raw video contains a vulgarity.







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    • Confused Kitten

      Did you even watch the video? He nor anyone else threatening her in any way, and right before she started spraying there wasn’t anyone directly in front of her let alone confronting her. There was absolutely no reason for her to use pepper spray in that situation, and anyone that is that trigger happy shouldn’t have a badge or a weapon. I hope this guy gets some sort of compensation and this stupid woman is fired.

      • Volodya

        There are 3 sec of footage in that video that occur pre-spray. There’s no point in carefully. If you watch too carefully, you might think you see Hagopian check for the camera (could be an accidental glance). I won’t argue irrational spraying, not for 3 sec. This is all being presented as if he were a passerby (especially in his written statement), when he’s wearing the same armband as some protesters in the background. Whatever happened before the first 3 sec of the video caused the head of the barricade to have already pulled out her pepper spray. Because she already had it out before the video starts, we all can safely assume she has shouted “step back” for more than 3 sec and that there had already been proximity issues. Also, since Derek seems to be with a group there, I’ll bet he was present for the pre-video warning, and walked within range anyway (maybe not even for the first time that afternoon).

        Conmen make people with real grievances look bad and are a liability to well-intentioned folk at organized events.

        • Ben

          blah blah blah he’s a high school teacher and a peaceful activist…you racists always find a skewed backwards justification for unnecessary force…”he shouldn’t have been walking there”…”he shouldn’t have waved at the police”…he did nothing wrong and this mini power tripping moron of a female officer crossed the line

    • Jeb Bush

      Who gives 2-fucks what the crazy bitch cop says, she clearly has some stupid, child – like obsession with abusing her power as a police officer, and it’s morons like this that don’t deserve the right to bear arms or order people around like some maniac with no justification. She’s nothing more than a screaming child with a blue suit.

  • Steve

    Seems to me we have come to a point in time when police officers need to carry their own professional liability insurance like doctors and other professionals. Repeat offenders in the police force who get sued again and again while the tax payers pick up the cost would then have to pay a higher premiums to stay as officers and at some point they would simply not be able to afford to be a cop any longer. And the citizenry is free of them as well as the force. It is one sure way to weed out bad cops from the good cops

      • Greg law

        Well, then police officers should be even more careful to not injure or kill someone than a Doctor because they can’t afford the higher premiums such brutality and incompetence would come with. Or would you, the tax payer, rather pay millions each year for those deranged sickos in the police force to violently attack innocent people because that’s easier for them? Ultimately, it should be put up for a vote.

    • the doctor

      I appreciate the constructive ideas, and this is something I could support at an earlier point in time. However I think we are pay that point, and police have gotten away with unwarranted assault time and time again. They are peace officers, they are not doing their job, they need to be fired, do not pass go, do not collect $200, you have committed the crimes you are here to stop.

  • jkl

    There are so many serious issues destroying this society for the decent people who just want to be free, work and contribute yet these moronic liberals choose this as their cause du jour? The incidents around the country they are protesting were justifiable deaths. Why don’t they protest on behalf of all the innocent workers slashed, murdered, knifed in the eyes and terrorized by BLACKS?

      • yeh

        In this case, yes, I can only assume liberals are who is out there choosing such a bizarre cause when there are so many real issues. Protest the ongoing war – that would make sense.
        And your retort is stupid. As are the pot toking liberals who decided to choose this as their cause.

        • Why

          Who is stupid here? The one dismissing an entire line of thought and stereotyping a group of people or the ones out on the streets fighting for what they believe in?

          • noah

            Actually, you’re the one dismissing his line of thought without addressing it, and rushing to defend this guy against the “big bad police” is supporting the stereotype of all cops being overly violent for no reason.
            And as for “fighting for what they believe in,” what they believe in is stupid. Two criminals were shot while fighting against cops doing their job. “Black lives matter” is a joke because they casually ignore dead blacks when other blacks are the ones killing them. They only care when it’s a white guy, yet they call other people racist?

    • Ben

      the comments here are disheartening to say the least…Apparently Seattle has many wise people who can clearly see this man minding his own business, 4-5 steps past the moronic officer when she unleashes her spray….The rest of you questioning the nature of the protest and blaming the black high school teacher are beyond stupid and likely have a ting of racism lurking if they can’t fathom how wrong this pint sized officer’s actions were…Stay strong Seattle I hope the racist twits pack up and leave already

  • Cory

    This “teacher” is a complete idiot just looking for a quick buck. He knew the protests were going on. If he didn’t want to be involved in a demonstration he should have avoided the area. Getting that close to the police barricade is nobody’s fault but his own. Not that I’m sticking up for the tactics taken by the police, but if you don’t want to be a victim … don’t put yourself in a position to be one. IDIOT.

  • Josh

    The officer sprays a broad radius well beyond the established police line, many other people are hit by the spray, we’ve only heard of the one suit so far.

    No other officer in that line has their pepper spray in hand, or even looks remotely distressed by their employers walking past in the street. Only that one officer appears to lose control and assault the people in the street.

  • DD

    Racist alive and well I see… On all days MLK DAY…. Smh what a sad world we live in when people can’t speak aka protest…. I didn’t see any other officer react as if it was life or death…. What’s next?? A gun?! Abuse of power and it’s becoming more common every day.

  • channelnone

    I came here for the comments to see how truly sick Amerukans are…I have not been disappointed! you are a sick bunch and its real dark where you live mentaly

    • Mikey

      Also here for the comments. I never cease to be amazed by the arguments of ‘he deserved it, he should have done what he was told’. Is there no such thing as a proportioned response any more? The UK has its share of problems, for sure, and I have no doubt that the vast majority of US law enforcement is made up of responsible and level-headed people; but I can never, ever imagine our police force being littered with these paranoid, twitchy, shoot-first-and-ask-later, respect-ma-authoritah types.

  • Amie

    This is so ridiculous! He is trying to make a quick buck! If you look closely he isn’t the only one who got sprayed! So to say he was targeted is not true! A white woman walking by was affected as well. I hope that peice of info is brought up in this case!

    • Tiny

      You understand that the piece of information you mention goes against the officer in this case right? The allegation is that the officer acted unreasonably, which is supported by the fact that she sprayed a bunch of innocent people with pepper spray. It was an abuse of her power and authority. None of the other officers standing in the line looked even slight concerned by this peaceful group of people walking away from them.

      • noah

        So you would have preferred that they all had pepper spray pointed? That would have made it okay?
        You don’t walk up to a line of cops and not notice. Of course he saw them. He’s either an idiot or was trying to provoke a response to make the news and maybe make a quick buck. Good job, too, because he’s got all the usual hippies trying to earn their liberal credentials whining about cops. Go ahead and play “stand up against The Man” and pretend you’re just like those loser burnouts on that Woodstock video you love so much.

    • hodilib

      Regardless of whether he was targeted the city and that dumb bitch cop should be held accountable. The guy deserves every damn penny. All of these apologist comments are so focused on him apparently being targeted. Its not the point.

    • william

      Pepper spray isn’t like some water solution. It’s extremely painful even if it doesn’t get in your eyes. It’s absolutely excessive, especially since the guy was clearly walking AWAY from the police line. Take your victim blaming somewhere else.

  • Kevin Rivera

    the problem with seattle is it is a over policed the teacher was lucky he was not executed shot by spd. If you notice she sprayed forward the line of bikes, does a man talking on the phone posing a threat to there safety NO NOT AT ALL. poor teacher was going to work. TAX PAYER ATTACK. Remember you have a right to protect yourselves from the government, do not let know corrupt branch of gov disarm you. I hope that bad cop gets arrested. P>S> be glad you wern.t carvimg a stick. and executed. I quess the fed’s retaining did not help them.

  • first and ted

    It’s little cops like this and her seemingly thoughtless actions that hold the police, in general, in a negative light. They would be smart to start ‘policing’ from within, and stop giving the media ‘sound-bites’, they can run with. This was really unnecessary,……..

  • Tony

    As a conservative that totally thinks these protests are bullshit. I cant see how anyone can justify the actions of this police officer. She was clearly in NO danger at all and was using excessive force. She should be removed from the police force. I dont understand how people can watch stuff like this and think its OK.

  • Erik

    I honestly wish people would sue for the amount that is actually reasonable…where is the 500k in “damages” he is suffering through

    • Rose

      He is in his rights to try for more, but the point of this is to bring attention to this incident and correct the behavior of a potentially dangerous person. In my home town a white teenager was shot in the back by a cop and was never tried or even reprimanded, he still has a job to this day.

      If we as citizens do not hold each other, including policenand government, then they will keep pushing the limit on what they will and can do.

  • Tired of racists.

    Lol at dudes like Derek, Brent, Jeff and Stryker. Not other officers even had pepper spray out, they looked as shocked as the people who got sprayed. To bad the people mentioned above are the kind of people who cross the street when they see a little black girl approaching. Glad you found a forum for your subversive racism.

    • yeh

      I’ve personally witnessed two instances of “little black girls” savagely beating middle aged adults. If blacks were judged on their character, they’d be worse off then when MLK was alive and whining.

  • souravchakraborty

    Only dirty commies would be against such show of bravery by a hero cop. Meanwhile, the taxpayers will pick up the tab while the cop would probably just get her well earned paid vacation (suspension with pay).

    • politicalmoronswiththeirheadsuptheirasses

      Dirty Commies? Hero Cop? Your really one dumb fuck you know that? You know… taking a bath with a toaster would be a lot of fun for you… and the either world would be better off for it! Go ahead, try it out. I assure you, it’s the best idea EVER!

  • first and ted

    There’s a rumor going ’round that this is the same cop that arrested the ‘golf club’ man, and then lied about it… then the dash cam video showing what happened, was released, so the P.D. had to post an apology and re-assign her. But again I haven’t seen actual proof of that…. GO HAWKS !!


    what do ya’ll think this is, china? of course you can’t just walk around like you own the place lol. this is America and we’re suppose to follow the law like good boys and i’m a good boy!

  • fanny tumawa

    o you have a habit on taking a walk strolling on a HOT SITUATION AREAS?.u just stick ur sorry ass 2 places where it should not be?..

  • Jay

    Funny how everyone is so quick to judge the cop and blame everyone else for not watching the video, if you actually watched the video, you’d also notice the cop on the ground in the back. Who was assaulted by the mob just moments prior. THAT is why the police line is there.
    I’ll agree she might have overdone it, but if ppl. aint listening to you and your co-worker just got assaulted by “peaceful protesters” right in-front of you – I bet you’d be slightly on edge too…

    But then, much easier to just shout racist and police brutality! than actually checking what happened…

  • Ray

    I think both parties are to blame, The Officer should’ve gave more time for protesters to respond to commands, it’s loud and everyone’s emotional. So she should have been more patient. I get it that its scary having a mob of people shouting, some peaceful and some not. So its craziness. I think the guys kind of to blame, I mean he kind of walked right into that one, and maybe this should be educational to people that maybe it’s not a good Idea to be on your cell phone and walk between a police line and protesters.

  • Frank

    It was a viedo from a phone who knows what really happend for him to get sprayed.something may have been said or maybe the guy was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
    I was maced at a demonstration and I didn’t sue. Was kind of badge of honor after my vision cleared.

  • hendrickson

    That police woman was out of control, seems that she was over reacting to what she perceived as a threat by people who just happened to be in the vicinity. She even sprayed the open air when there was NO ONE even in the vicinity. The department needs to investigate what was going through her head as she continued to scream at no one in particular. She seems unhinged and out of control.

  • Virginia Lady (@Va_Lady2011)

    The only thing these officers understand is money, and only when the payment comes out of their individual pockets. As it stands now, the victims’ recourse is the sue the city. This one will win. But nothing will happen to the rogue officer, who will be carefully protected by his fellow thugs, and nothing will happen to the city, which will actively leak deleterious information about the victim, or from the grand jury hearing. Apparently, speaking out against police brutality, like a snowball fight, or playing in the park, is a death penalty offense, if you’re black.

    So who will pay? The same poor dumb bastard citizens, including the schoolteacher, thru increased taxes.

    No wonder the rogue police have no fear

  • Sven

    okay, watch the video again and pay attention to the lower right corner, you may be able to spot the group of police officers protecting a critically wounder officer who is on the ground from an assault that took place moments before by these “peaceful protestors.” The cops called for backup and then cleared the street with pepper spray because these idiots refused to leave when asked, and then told, and then threatened. This whole situation is laughable, but to think that this guy could sue the city and not have his case thrown out immediately is legitiimately terrifying. The man admitted to being a part of the protest that had already resulted in violence against police officers, and he was still there after being asked, told, and then threatened to disperse.

    This is before we even talk about what this protest actually was. This was Black lives matter, basically everything that was wrong with 2014 involving “minorities” and police. This orginization is an ongoing representation of the people who rioted in ferguson. This is not a good organization dedicated to peacefully supporting social justice. This is a group of fanatical psychopaths hiding behind misrepresentations of situations that they created.

    The scariest part about all this is how many people instantly believe that these protestors were in the right. Why is no one asking why the police were there? police don’t get deployed in force and riot gear over a peaceful demonstration. This is not the way to social change, this is the way to anarchy and you should be terrified.

  • Carrie Roth

    He staged the whole thing. He is a teacher leading the pack of idiot protesters. He had someone with the camera in place. Poor old man and poor old woman need the attention in their lives. Pathetic. The courts won’t support the falsehood. Too many holes through his story since he was speaking at protest rally earlier in the day he was a protester who can’t obey the law just like the others.

  • celina

    yeah that was really f***** up all dude was doing was talking on his phone wow it does look like they targeted him maybe they saw him previously I’ve seen a lot of s*** in Seattle and I usually my mind is divided because there’s a lot of criminal activity that try to play the race card but this was so obvious they wanted to spray this man why I don’t know. should they have been able to get away with it no

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