SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – Two friends who had planned to visit a Seattle sports bar claim they ended up being kicked, arrested at gunpoint and held in jail for several hours by a cop who said he intended to “make stuff up.”
Part of the arrest of Josh Lawson, 23, and Christopher Franklin, 22, on Nov. 16, 2010 is caught on tape by the officer’s dashboard camera.
But key moments of the arrest that should have been captured on video are missing and it was unclear whether the officer intentionally neglected to turn on the dash cam. None of the released footage shows the officer in the moments he made the stop or kicked Lawson.
The accusations against Richardson are among many that have put a spotlight on the Seattle Police Department and it comes after the release of a Department of Justice report in December that said “serious concerns about practices that could have a disparate impact on minority communities” were raised by its review.
The recording of the arrest was released after ABC News affiliate KOMO began an investigation into missing police dashboard camera videos.
The recording of the arrest of Lawson and Franklin — who were picked up for allegedly assaulting and robbing a man a short time earlier — shows the suspects being helped from the ground and into the patrol car of Officer Brad Richardson.
The officer’s uniform microphone also records Richardson telling the suspects, “Yeah, I’m going to make stuff up.”
The Seattle Police Department called Richardson’s comment “banter” and the officer was exonerated of any wrongdoing after a use of force review was conducted, along with an investigation by the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability.
“Clearly if the officer had made stuff up he would have been in hot water,” Sgt. Sean Whitcomb of the Seattle Police Department told ABCNews.com.
Lawson and Richardson said the dash cam did not record crucial moments of the arrest that they said left them with facial bruises and swelling. They claimed they were manhandled and kicked in the face by Richardson, while the officer maintained that he only kicked Lawson in the chest to make him comply with an order to get on the ground.
“I don’t know who was recording what,” Whitcomb told ABCNews.com. “Officers should record, [but] it’s not a violation not to.”
Lawson and Franklin, who are African-American, were arrested after a 911 call came in from a few blocks away alleging a man had been the victim of an assult and robbery. The two suspects were described as black males in their late twenties, tall, skinny and wearing jeans.
Franklin is 5-foot-9. Lawson, who is six feet tall. Instead of jeans, he was wearing white sweat pants.
“The only thing they had to fit the description was black males,” said the pair’s attorney, Lizanne Padula. “This was like a meteor dropping down on them.”
When they found out why they were being arrested, the two men became alarmed.
“It felt like no one was going to believe us,” Franklin told ABCNews.com. “We were just going to be another statistic.”
Richardson’s written report described a different situation. The officer wrote in the police report that the men continued to approach his car even after he yelled at them to stop.
“The male wearing the hoodie continued to keep his hands in his hoodie pockets. With the strong possibility both of these males were the assault suspects and they were ignoring commands to stop, I again advised, ‘Stop, Police, show me your hands and get on the ground.'”
According to Richardson, the two men got closer, so he drew his weapon.
Lawson said they complied with the officer’s order.
“I got on the ground. I sat with my hands up frozen because I had a gun pointed at me,” Lawson said. “I had to come back into myself and understand there was a gun on me. I was in shock.”
Richardson said that Lawson stayed in a crouch position, not fully laying on the ground.
“I used a flat foot, front push kick to the center of the male chest knocking him backwards and flat to the ground,” he wrote.
The robbery victim positively identified the two men, while a witness said she was uncertain. No charges were filed at the victims’ request.
The two men want changes in the Seattle Police Department. They have also filed a complaint for damages, possibly the first step in a lawsuit.
“We’re terrified of hanging out in our own city,” Franklin said. “These officers have seen our faces. They know our names. We can’t trust people.”