Expecting a trial date of Sept. 23 for her son, Sanetta Hunter had friends and family write letters supporting him.
She was going to file them with the court so the judge could understand her son Josiah Hunter was no criminal. But a week before the date, she was surprised to learn the trial was canceled. The three misdemeanor charges were as well.
Sanetta Hunter had contacted the Mirror just days prior, asking if staff wanted to follow an issue she believes is an example of police misconduct within the Federal Way Police Department.
“I’m just hoping for some change,” Sanetta Hunter, an employee with the King County Prosecutor’s Office for 20-plus years, said in an interview. “We could say, ‘Whew, our son’s in the clear’ and walk away but …”
“Somebody else’s son is gonna get dealt with and why should they?” Her husband Michael Anthony Hunter chimed in. “Those officers should not have the right to do that to anybody else.”
Around 9 p.m. on Sept. 14, 2014, Josiah 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, Josiah 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.
Durrell said the driver was obviously intoxicated as he had slurred speech and the smell of alcohol on his breath. As he was arrested, Durrell wrote in a police report that Josiah Hunter reached down and took the man’s wallet and started to walk away.
But Sanetta Hunter said her son heard the man ask, “Yo, man will you hand me my wallet?”
“Jo reaches down to hand him the wallet and the officer says, ‘hey, put that down’ and he immediately drops it,” Sanetta Hunter said. “Who steals a wallet in front of the person and the police sitting right there?”
When Durrell asked Josiah Hunter why he took the wallet, he replied, “I’m just trying to help homeboy out.”
“I told Hunter to leave the area and stop interfering with my investigation,” Durrell wrote in his report.
The interaction set the tone for the events that led up to Josiah Hunter and Beausilien’s eventual arrest for obstruction, trespass and resisting arrest.
Officer Charles Hinkle arrived and Durrell told him to keep an eye on Josiah Hunter and Beausilien because he believed they were trying to steal from the accident scene. Durrell also warned Officer Keith Schmidt. Josiah Hunter and Beausilien were in a large crowd of people, who police told to move behind the gas pumps at the ARCO gas station near the AM/PM.
Police Chief Andy Hwang said accident scene areas are typically between 5-10 feet from the scene.
“Beausilien moved back near the gas pumps but Hunter moved to the north side of the accident scene but not behind the pumps,” Durrell wrote. “Hunter pulled out his cell phone and remained in the accident scene.”
“All these officers wanted was for them to just leave,” Hwang said.
Durrell said he told Josiah Hunter he would be arrested if he didn’t move behind the gas pumps, to which he allegedly replied, “You ain’t arresting me,” according to the report.
Sanetta Hunter said they complied.
Schmidt then went into the AM/PM to see if the men had permission to be on the property. According to Schmidt, the clerk said she noticed they were not patronizing the business and she wanted them trespassed.
However, after the incident, Josiah Hunter’s parents went to speak with the clerk.
“I didn’t want to be a mother with my head in the sand,” Sanetta Hunter said. “So I went over to the AM/PM and I didn’t tell the clerk who I was.”
The clerk told her police asked her if she wanted to trespass the young men and she allegedly replied she didn’t see anybody.
“And they said, ‘there’s two guys here, they’ve been here a long time and you should trespass them,’” she said. “She said, ‘I don’t know who you’re talking about, I worry who’s in the store, I don’t worry who’s outside the store.’”
Michael Anthony Hunter said the clerk’s husband then came from inside the cooler and mentioned he heard his son say, “I’m not resisting arrest, I’m not resisting arrest.”
Hwang said that’s incorrect, stating the clerk verbally trespassed the men.
In an internal investigation by Commander Casey Jones on Oct. 20, 2014, he spoke to the clerk who informed him that Schmidt came into the store, asked if she wanted to trespass the two men and when she asked why, he said they were parked in the parking lot. She said she could hear the two men yelling but could not see them.
“Officer Schmidt again asked if she wanted them to be given a trespass notice,” according to Jones’s internal investigation documents. “She then replied, ‘it’s up to you, sir.’”
“He doesn’t even have the right to do that, that’s private property,” Michael Anthony Hunter said.
However, Schmidt maintained his statement that the clerk said she didn’t want them there.
After they were issued trespass notices, Schmidt’s report indicates Beausilien pulled out his phone and said, “I’ll leave when I’m done with my phone call” as Josiah Hunter started to walk north, toward the front of the business.
“They didn’t ask questions, even in the police report, you see that,” Sanetta Hunter said. “He was like, ‘OK, we’re leaving, we got to make a phone call.’ His friend didn’t have a ride home so they were trying to call somebody because he lives in West Seattle and right out of the blue, even in the report, there was no warning, no other conversation, they immediately just decided to arrest them.”
Durrell wrote in his report that Beausilien said he wasn’t under arrest, which prompted Durrell to grab his left arm as Schmidt grabbed his right arm. Both officers said he resisted arrest by “stiffing his arm and pulling his arm forward.”
Eventually, they placed both of his arms behind his back as Officer Hinkle handcuffed him.
It was during this time police reported Josiah Hunter walked behind them.
Durrell said he told him to stop approaching them but he didn’t comply, so he told Josiah Hunter he was under arrest also.
“After Beausilien was safely in handcuffs, I approached Hunter near the front of the store,” Durrell wrote. “Hunter told me he was not going to leave and attempted to get into a vehicle.”
Sanetta Hunter said her son was heading towards the family car because officers had just told him to leave because he was trespassed from the property. His car was parked at the AM/PM parking lot.
“He made it sound like he was coming up on them to do something,” Michael Anthony Hunter said. “Because they have to substantiate why he had to forcibly tell my son not to get in his car when all he had to do was say I need to talk with you. My son would have turned around and responded because he knows to respect authority.”
Durrell approached Josiah Hunter and grabbed his left arm, which the officer said he pulled back.
“Due to Hunter’s resistance to being arrested, I placed him in a vascular neck restraint control hold and told him to stop resisting,” Durrell wrote. “I did not apply any pressure to the neck restraint.”
Durrell eventually gained control over Josiah Hunter with more physical force and arrested him at about 9:48 p.m. He said it was for obstruction with carried charges of trespass and resisting arrest.
“The officers didn’t want to arrest them, period,” Hwang said. “Their hands were full with the DUI [investigation], everybody else pretty much complied … I would say they were being malicious towards the officers.”
He was transported to SCORE jail where Sanetta Hunter would not hear from him until the next evening. At midnight, she figured he fell asleep and would be around in the morning — after all, he had the family car and knew his parents had to work in the morning.
But the next morning, “still no Jo.”
His parents called various friends and phone numbers but nobody knew where he was. They were just getting ready to report their son missing after work when he walked through the door.
“He begins to tell me the story with tears in his eyes and I’m just, like, in shock and I’m the type of mother that, my kids will tell you, I don’t just take what they say because, kids will tell you what works, even when they’re in school,” she said. “… I knew something terrible had happened to him so what we decided to do was record him telling the story because we didn’t want him to forget any of the details.”
In addition to being choked, she said, her son told her police went through his parent’s vehicle after having it towed. They believe this because his wallet, which was in the glove compartment, was given to him when he got out of jail.
The Hunters hired attorney James Bible, who launched a defense investigation.
Although the charges were dropped because of a lack of evidence, they are still concerned that Durrell — an officer accused of excessive force in a January lawsuit by Joseph Walling — and the other officers were able to treat these young African-American men as they did.
The city of Federal Way settled that lawsuit in February and paid