SPOKANE, Wash. - A Spokane Police officer’s use of force was deemed warranted, but he will still face disciplinary action over his demeanor in an arrest earlier this year.
An internal affairs investigation was launched in Officer Dan Lesser’s use of force during the February arrest of Lucas Ellerman.
Ellerman had previously been accused of second-degree assault and had an active felony Department of Corrections escape warrant out for his arrest. He also had an additional felony warrant for unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance.
On the day of his arrest, SPD’s PACT team and US Marshals were surveilling a residence where they believed Ellerman was hiding. Responding officers saw a pickup truck leaving and stopped it to see if Ellerman was inside.
Officer Scott Lesser (Dan Lesser’s nephew) and Officer Mark Brownell made the stop. Officer Dan Lesser arrived shortly afterwards.
The truck driver complied with officers and got out of the truck. Officers said they did not know Ellerman was hiding in the back seat, but he then jumped into the front seat.
Ellerman fled and hit several parked cars before ending up in a snowbank.
Officers used their vehicles to keep Ellerman’s pinned into the snowbank. Police said Ellerman kept trying to escape, so Officer Dan Lesser approached the truck. He turned on his body camera and can be seen breaking the truck’s window.
The footage was from Officer Dan Lesser’s body camera was shown to media on Wednesday. Formonths, the release of the video has been the subject of debate between the police department, the police ombudsman’s office and even the Spokane City Council.
During the altercation, Ellerman said he had a pistol. Officer Dan Lesser yelled about the gun and told him “don’t reach” multiple times.
The footage shows Ellerman jumping into the back seat of the truck. At that time, Officer Dan Lesser asked Officer Scott Lesser to retrieve his police K9.
Officer Dan Lesser ordered Ellerman to come out multiple times and Ellerman did not comply.
Throughout the video, Officer Dan Lesser is heard saying “I’m going to f***ing kill you” and “Get out right now, I’m done f***ing with you.” He also warned Ellerman he was going to get bit.
The video then shows Ellerman moving forward in the truck. He can also be heard saying he was coming out.
Body camera footage shows that Officer Dan Lesser then deployed his K9 to apprehend Ellerman before officers then pulled him out of the vehicle.
Spokane Police said he then released the K9 because they were acting under the impression that Ellerman was armed with a pistol.
Officer Scott Lesser reported feeling Ellerman reaching toward his waistband and struck Ellerman on the head to gain control of his arms.
Ellerman was ultimately taken into custody. He ultimately pleaded guilty and is currently serving 70 months in prison, which will be followed by 12 months of community custody.
On Wednesday, police said Officer Dan Lesser’s use-of-force was warranted, but will be disciplined for his demeanor. Brownell will be punished for not activating his body camera.
In a release, Mayor David Condon responded to the footage with the following statement:
"Over the past 8 years we have worked hard to improve transparency and accountability related to Use of Force and to continually refine our practices."
"While this incident removed a highly dangerous individual from our streets, the demeanor and disturbing language used by the officer in this incident demonstrates that we must continue to hold our officers accountable to the highest standards of conduct," Condon added.
Police Chief Craig Meidl did not specify if Scott Lesser would be disciplined and did not state what form of discipline each officer will receive. That is set to be released at a later time.
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