Spokane Police Officer apologizes for actions in violent arrest

A Spokane Police officer at the center of a violent arrest wrote a letter, apologizing to the department and the community for the language he used that day.

Dan Lesser was one of several officers involved in the February arrest of a wanted felon named Lucas Ellerman. The incident drew criticism from several people in the community who saw the body camera footage and described what they believed was an egregious use of force.

On the body camera footage released last week by Spokane Police, you can hear Lesser screaming at Ellerman, saying such things as “I’m going to f* ** ing kill you” and “I’m going to put a bullet in your brain.” At one point, Ellerman appears to retreat to the backseat of the vehicle and when he emerges again, officers put a police K9 in the car. You can hear Ellerman screaming as the K9 is biting him.

Ellerman was a convicted felon who led officers on a brief pursuit that day; he also indicated several times that he had a weapon, but he never showed it in the body camera footage.

Spokane Police conducted an internal affairs investigation, which wrapped up last week. The department determined that Lesser’s use of force was within policy, but that his language was unacceptable and violated company policy in the arrest. Chief Craig Meidl has not yet released what discipline Lesser will face.

This week, the Spokane Police Guild reached out to 4 News Now, saying Lesser and the guild were going to issue an apology for the behavior that day. Lesser did not go on camera, but shared a letter he wrote, addressed to the community and his fellow officers.

Dan Lesser Letter by Erin Robinson on Scribd

4 News Now spoke with guild vice president Tim Schwering, who is a patrol officer who also worked on the civilian side of the police department.

“We missed the mark on this one,” Schwering said. “We missed the mark on the language that was used. It was inappropriate. Officer Danny Lesser admits [it]; he says it was inappropriate.”

Schwering said the guild supports the use of the body cameras, but believes that it’s important that investigations are complete so that the community gets context of what is shown.

He also believes that part of building public trust is admitting when an officer makes a mistake.

“We are part of the community,” Schwering said. “We love the community, we’re here to serve the community. There’s times when we get it wrong. We missed the mark this time with language. We’ll try to get it better next time.”

Below is the letter to the community from the Spokane Police Guild.

To our Spokane community members,

Despite the intense and rapidly evolving circumstances surrounding the potentially lethal use of force Ofc. Dan Lesser was involved in February of this year, the language he used could only be viewed as unprofessional and unacceptable.

While Ofc. Lesser has taken responsibility for his unprincipled behavior in this incident, we, the Spokane Police Guild, feel it is important to affirm to our community that we hold ourselves to the high standard residents and visitors expect and deserve from us; every day, every contact, and every call for service. Because of this, we apologize for the unbefitting speech used during this encounter. We support Ofc. Lesser’s desire to take a critical look at this incident with his fellow officers, through discussions during shift rollcalls and receiving mentorship opportunities when possible, so we can all learn from what happened.

The officers of the Spokane Police Guild endeavor to provide each member of our community with the best and most professional service possible; this time we fell short. We strive to learn from each encounter, both positive and negative, and appreciate the feedback we’ve already received from community members about this incident. We hear you.

Thank you all for your continued support of our members, as well as the rest of the Spokane Police personnel who work to serve you every day.

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Spokane Police Officer apologizes for actions in violent arrest