Samantha Six and her husband Damien Boyd were arrested July 25, 2020, after police declared protests a riot on Capitol Hill. Six, who has been diagnosed with epilepsy, says she was violently arrested and kept in handcuffs without aid while having a seizure, was later denied her anti-seizure medication and was mocked while in custody. They maintain they were wrongfully arrested while peacefully protesting. Neither has been charged with a crime. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
A woman who was arrested during last summer’s protests on Capitol Hill has sued Seattle, King County and police and jail officers, alleging they mistreated her during her arrest and ignored her repeated requests for the medicine she needed to control her epilepsy.
As a result, Samantha Six, 32, of Seattle, contends she suffered “multiple seizures throughout the night while repeatedly and continually requesting her anti-seizure medication” after her July 25 arrest, according to her suit.
The 26-page complaint was filed May 19 in U.S. District Court in Seattle. It claims both the city and county are responsible due to negligence and multiple violations of Six’s constitutional rights for her “injuries, emotional distress and other damages” suffered during a roughly 24-hour period spent in custody following her arrest for obstructing an officer.
“She was exercising her right to protest and the (police) conduct was unreasonable and excessive,” attorney James S. Rogers, who represents Six, said Tuesday. “We understand that there was a lot going on up on Capitol Hill at that time, but people have to be treated well.”
The lawsuit also names as defendants two Seattle police officers, Scott Luckie and Michael Eastman, and five police and jail officers whose names are still unknown, but were involved in Six’s arrest and incarceration.
A spokesperson for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office declined to comment Tuesday, saying the office had yet to be served with Six’s suit. A spokesperson for the King County Jail also declined to comment about the suit.
An investigation of Six’s arrest by the city’s police watchdog agency, the Office of Police Accountability, cleared Luckie, Eastman and two other officers of wrongdoing during the incident, which was widely captured on video by officers’ body cameras and by witnesses.
The investigation, prompted by the complaints of several witnesses, found that the riot-gear clad officers acted lawfully and properly while arresting Six and her husband for allegedly impeding police efforts to disperse an unruly crowd. It also stated Six repeatedly swore and verbally abused officers and was “physically resisting” them during her arrest, but “none of the officers were deliberately indifferent to (her) medical conditions” even though they initially failed to recognize she’d fallen unconscious at one point.
City prosecutors ultimately declined to charge Six for the misdemeanor obstructing case referred by police, records show. Her husband, Damien Boyd, also hasn’t been charged. Police arrested Boyd for felony assault of an officer, but then “didn’t send a full case for a felony charging decision,” a spokesperson for the county prosecutor’s office said.
Six is among scores of people arrested during last year’s racial justice and police reform protests in Seattle who ultimately haven’t faced criminal charges.
Though there’s not a precise definition for what constitutes a protest-related case, Seattle police referred about 275 cases stemming from demonstrations to the City Attorney’s Office, which generally handles misdemeanor offenses.
“I believe we charged 3 of them and referred one to prefiling diversion,” Deputy City Attorney John Schochet wrote in an email Tuesday. “The rest are either declined or still in review.”
King County prosecutors, who typically handle more serious felony crimes, have filed 24 cases related to Seattle protests between May 2020 and February, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle has charged nine defendants with crimes around demonstrations in the city. Neither the county nor federal prosecutors’ offices could readily say Tuesday how many Seattle protest case referrals were declined for charges.
In her lawsuit, Six contends she first lost consciousness after police pulled her to the ground, then handcuffed and dragged her across a sidewalk, and held her down.
“People videotaped everything,” Rogers said. “There were a number of bystanders watching this while it was happening.”
While in custody, Six “made repeated requests for her anti-seizure medication,” which was contained in a backpack that officers had confiscated from her during her arrest, the suit states. Her backpack was never returned.
“SPD unreasonably ignored these urgent medical requests despite her objectively serious medical condition,” the suit states.
After being booked into jail, the suit contends Six was offered a used face mask stained with makeup, and at one point had a “spit hood” put over her head before jail officers placed her in an isolation cell typically reserved for patients with mental health issues.
Six was “forced to use her bedding to protect herself from injuries while she continued to have … multiple seizures throughout the night,” the suit contends.
The suit also alleges that jail staff denied Six her right to legal counsel by falsely telling a lawyer who tried to meet with her the next morning that Six had refused the meeting.
Noah Haglund, a spokesperson for the jail, said in an email Tuesday that staff have “reviewed documentation indicating that Samantha Six declined to speak to the attorney more than once while in our custody.”
Haglund added that due to health privacy laws, jail officials cannot discuss medical treatment of incarcerated people without the patient’s consent. “I am unaware of any signed consent in this case,” he said.