Testimony describes King County deputy bashing man's head against concrete wall

Jan 21, 2011

A jury trial has begun in Tacoma, detailing another case of alleged police brutality in Seattle.

The lawsuit was filed against King County by the wife and a court-appointed guardian of 31-year-old Christopher Sean Harris, who a deputy shoved against a concrete wall a year and a half ago outside the Cinerama movie theater in Belltown. A surveillance camera outside the movie theater captured footage of the incident.

Harris suffered head and spinal injuries so severe, he is now bedridden and unable to speak or do anything for himself.

Writing in the Seattle Times, reporter Sara Jean Green recounts the testimony of three witnesses, who said they had no idea the two deputies on the scene were law enforcement officers because they were dressed all in black. The two deputies were working as Metro transit police at the time of the incident.

The lawsuit accuses sheriff's deputy Matthew Paul of negligence and of using excessive force.

An internal investigation by the King County Sheriff's Office cleared Paul of any wrongdoing. King County prosecutors later found no basis to charge the deputy with a crime.  He remains on duty. 

According to KOMO news reporter Keith Eldridge, the trial will determine only whether the family deserves monetary compensation to help support Harris, who is expected to be bedridden for the rest of his life.

According to Green, Harris was wrongly identified as a suspect in a violent assault that took place minutes earlier. 

The trial was filed in Pierce County to avoid a possible conflict. Testimony continues next week.

News of the incident traveled around the world as a segment prepared for Britain's Sky News and distributed via YouTube: