Court awards $640,000 in ‘excessive force’ case against Federal Way

The lawsuit stems from an incident in 2014.

The City of Federal Way is appealing a federal court decision to award $640,000 to Josiah Hunter for a lawsuit he filed against the Federal Way Police Department.

The lawsuit stems from an incident in 2014 where Hunter and a friend had witnessed a car accident, later determined to be caused by a DUI, and were later arrested with physical force for failing to comply with police orders. With attorney James Bible of James Bible Law Group in Bellevue, Hunter sought damages for assault, unlawful arrest, excessive force and tort of outrage.

The decision in favor of Hunter was released July 17. On July 19, Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell’s office released a statement expressing disappointment with the outcome.

“While I respect the jury’s decision in the Josiah Hunter civil lawsuit against the city, we believe that legal errors were committed during this trial. Therefore, we are going to appeal this decision,” the statement reads in part. “I want to make it clear that the men and women of the Federal Way Police Department have my full faith and confidence. The City of Federal Way has zero tolerance for police misconduct, and we do not believe that that is what transpired in this case.”

The Federal Way Police Department also released a statement regarding the event from 2014 and explained why physical force was reasonable under the situation’s circumstances. According to the statement, Hunter and his friend would not remove themselves from the scene and were making poor decisions that hindered police from being able to do their jobs.

According to the police statement, Hunter also supposedly picked up the DUI suspect’s wallet and tried to leave the scene with it.

“Our officers had a difficult job to do in a chaotic, potentially hazardous environment, and the two young men, ages 21 and 22, used poor judgement to challenge the lawful order of the officers,” the police department’s statement reads in part.

Around 9 p.m. on Sept. 14, 2014, Hunter, then 21, and friend Junior Beausilien, then 20, were at the AM/PM on South 320th Street and Pacific Highway South when a head-on DUI collision occurred.

According to witnesses, the driver of a Dodge Ram truck ran a red light and struck a Chevrolet that was making a U-turn from eastbound South 320th Street to westbound. The Dodge was heading westbound. No one was hurt, but a light pole was damaged and the scene wasn’t stable, police reported.

When police arrived, they couldn’t determine who was driving the Dodge until a witness pointed him out. According to the police report, Hunter and Beausilien escorted the drunk driver to police and were then asked to step back, but didn’t. The drunk driver was carrying a wallet and cell phone in his hand but, as he was questioned by Officer Kris Durrell and asked to sit down, he set his wallet down on the curb.

According to a Mirror report, Hunter claimed that excessive force was used during his arrest despite him complying with all orders while on scene at the crash. Hunter said he was following all commands given and out of nowhere was choked from behind by Officer Durell, who reported that he put Hunter in a “vascular neck restraint” before his arrest.

In a previous Mirror report, Police Chief Andy Hwang said there was no excessive force used, but said Hunter and his friend were both arrested for failing to move away from the scene and preventing officers from conducting a proper investigation of the crash.