FBI opens criminal probe into report that Seattle police beat student

The FBI has launched a criminal civil-rights probe into a 2012 incident in which a university student claims police beat him and who last month received a $100,000 settlement from the city of Seattle. 

Reuters| Updated: Dec 15, 2015, 06:51 AM IST

Seattle: The FBI has launched a criminal civil-rights probe into a 2012 incident in which a university student claims police beat him and who last month received a $100,000 settlement from the city of Seattle. 

The student, David Pontecorvo, was filming the police making an arrest as they responded to a noise complaint at his house party. He suffered a broken cheekbone and nose during the scuffle, his attorney Daniel Fjelstad said. 

The federal probe also comes as the Seattle Police Department undergoes a number of court-ordered reforms stemming from a 2012 consent decree between the city and the U.S. Justice Department to curb a pattern of excessive force and biased policing.

In a letter to Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O`Toole, the Federal Bureau of Investigation asked for copies of all police records from the incident.

O`Toole referred the matter to the city`s Office of Professional Accountability, a police department spokesman said on Monday. 

An FBI spokeswoman said the agency would evaluate its findings jointly with the U.S. Attorney`s Office and the Department of Justice to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to prove the officers violated federal law.

According to the lawsuit that resulted in the settlement, a police officer guided him down from his porch after he refused to stop recording the officers with his mobile phone. Then two officers beat him with fists and flashlights, Fjelstad said.

At one point, an officer kneed him in the back of the head after an officer dragged him to a curb, the lawsuit said. "Bleeding from the face, (Pontecorvo) was put into a squad car," the complaint said.

"I am pleased to see the FBI is getting involved. I think these officers should be held accountable," Fjelstad said. "Their behavior was unacceptable to say the least."

Pontecorvo, who is now a student at the University of Washington, underwent surgery in June, Fjelstad said.