“Tragic Accident”: New Euphemism for Nearly Lethal Police Assault

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“The bottom line,” insists Sgt. John Urquart of Washington’s King County sheriff’s office, “is we don’t know why he ran.”

Urquart was referring to a May 10 incident outside Seattle’s Cinerama theater in which 29-year-old Christopher Harris was assaulted by Deputy Matthew Paul.

A recently released surveillance video shows Deputy Paul — obviously much larger and heavier than Harris — throwing a body-check into Harris, sending the man tumbling head-first against a wall. Harris’s head snaps forward sharply as his body slams against the pavement. Not surprisingly, Harris spent a long period in a coma, and remains in critical condition.

According to the official police account, Deputy Paul mistakenly identified Harris as a suspect in a nearby stabbing, and gave chase when Harris ran away.

The preliminary findings of the official inquiry …

… no, wait; let’s let the suspense build for a moment or two.

OK, ready?

The preliminary findings are that “our deputy didn’t break any laws from his use of force,” and that his actions were in compliance with department policy, insists Urquart. The fact that Harris, a completely innocent man, was left with life-threatening injuries after being propelled headlong into a wall is “a tragic accident.”

It apparently doesn’t occur to Urquart that the fact a deputy can — without fear of criminal penalties or professional consequences — leave an innocent man nearly dead from an unjustified assault may have something to do with Harris’s understandable decision to flee.

10:26 pm on May 22, 2009