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Police: Meridian officer seen punching suspect did not violate policy

Meridian Police determined the officer who was seen on video punching a suspect during a May 16 arrest did not violate the department's use of force policy.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — The Meridian Police Department has determined the officer who was seen on video punching a suspect during an arrest on May 16 did not violate the department's use of force policy. Police said a "careful analysis" of the incident was conducted. 

A video circulated on social media showing officers throwing the suspect to the ground, with one officer appearing to punch the man several times. The suspect's mugshot showed that one eye was swollen shut and heavily bruised and blood and bruising on the side of his face. 

Police responded to a call claiming a person was passed out in their vehicle near Ten Mile and Ustick on Tuesday, May 16 around 5:20 p.m. 31-year-old Colt Seward of Boise was arrested.

In a statement Friday, Meridian Police Chief Tracy Basterrechea explained Seward was run through multiple field sobriety tests after he was found in the running vehicle with his foot on the brake. Seward failed the tests and was "clearly under the influence of drugs," police said.

When Seward was arrested for driving under the influence, an empty holster was found in his waistband, and a handgun was later found in his car. Police said that the officer had placed Seward in two sets of handcuffs due to his "broad shoulders."

While Seward was being put in the police vehicle, he was shouting and yelled "I just got off of parole," followed by cursing. Meridian Police claim the officer pulled into a parking lot to administer a breath test to Seward, when he saw the man "slipping his handcuffs" to the front of his body.

After Seward said he would not keep his hands behind his back, the officer asked for backup to help him in re-handcuffing Seward.

"When the assist officer unhandcuffed the suspect’s right hand and the officers attempted to handcuff him behind his back, he pulled his hands away and attempted to escape police custody," Friday's statement said. "The suspect threw an elbow at the arresting officer striking him in the chest knocking his body worn camera to the ground."

After putting him on the ground, the officer punched Seward three times while telling him to put his hands behind his back. Seward was punched three more times in the face once the officer noticed his left hand "had the unsecured handcuff attached to it."

Following the incident, Seward was booked into Ada County Jail on multiple charges, including misdemeanor driving under the influence (second offense), misdemeanor resisting and obstructing, misdemeanor assault or battery, misdemeanor possession of prescription drugs without a prescription, misdemeanor drug paraphernalia-use or possess with intent to use, unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and felony possession of a controlled substance.

Meridian Police said the incident uncovered some training points and tactics to be used in the future when dealing with a suspect who slips their handcuffs. Police also said they "emphasize other techniques" than punching or striking a suspect in order for them to cooperate. 

Ultimately, Meridian Police said Seward "took advantage of our officer's kindness," defending the use of force saying they "support our officers in this use of force."

The conclusion of Friday's statement from the Meridian Police Department is included below:

"Every use of force is unpleasant and complicated; never looks like it does in a controlled environment like training in a mat room or on TV. However, what seems to lead up to this incident was our officer’s empathy for a suspect, who because he had broad shoulders led our officer to place two sets of handcuffs on him in order to minimize discomfort for the suspect. In other word’s this suspect took advantage of our officer’s kindness. We support our officers in this use of force and I will emphasize these incidents don’t happen if the suspect cooperates or at least complies with an officer’s lawful commands. The Meridian Police Department is dedicated to providing the best service we can, but we need the publics cooperation and assistance to make this happen. The suspect is currently charged with numerous crimes and we will not be releasing any body worn camera footage until those cases have been adjudicated."

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