This week's cover story traces the unlikely trajectory of James Egan, a DUI attorney who has made news again and again in the past year by releasing videos purporting to show police misconduct. The last video he released, relating to a mouthy hit-and-run suspect punched by an officer, was particularly controversial. Some felt the suspect, a man named Leo Etherly, brought the officers' aggression upon himself.
*See Also: Watching the Detectives
Not so for James Bible. The local NAACP head has previously encountered the most aggressive officer in the video, Eric Faust. The experience led Bible to conclude that Faust would hurt someone some day.
Bible was representing a woman named Yvette Gaston at the time. Gaston was a King County juvenile probation counselor. A couple years ago, she took one of her charges on a shopping trip for school clothes and then dropped him off at 23rd Ave. and Jackson St. in the Central District. Minutes later, she got a call on her cell phone from the young man, who was "distraught" and said he was being "harassed and surrounded" by police officers, according to a federal lawsuit Gaston subsequently filed against Seattle police and the officers involved.
The boy then handed the phone over to an officer, who complained that the boy had been "lippy." Next on the phone was Eric Faust. Gaston's complaint, filed in February of 2010, recounts the exchange:
Officer Faust stated to Gaston that her client had jaywalked in front of him and was being difficult so they were going to show him how they do things in the CD. The officers also accused Ms. Gaston's client of having stolen the clothing that Ms. Gaston had helped him purchase via a clothing voucher from King County. Ms Gaston could hear officers yelling at her client and the officer abruptly hung up the phone.
How they do things in the CD? What does that mean? Judging by this incident and, two years later, the Etherly encounter, it would seem to have something to do with officers flying off the handle at perceived disrespect.
After the phone conversation with the officers, Gaston drove back to 23rd and Jackson, whereby according to the complaint, she was pushed by a sergeant at the scene after being told to back up. Faust then inserted himself into the dynamic. The complaint continues:
Officer Faust then ran up to Ms. Gaston and began to yell in her face and scream that Ms. Gaston had assaulted an officer. Out of concern for her safety, Ms. Gaston dialed 911 and attempted to explain the situation to a neutral third party.
Note, Fasut is not the only officer to have so freaked out a member of the public that a 911 call was placed. As we know due to another video released by Egan, last year a driver did the same when his car was surrounded by five seemingly menacing officers.
In Gaston's case, the 911 operator hung up after the sergeant got on the phone with instructions to disregard the call. The probation officer was subsequently charged with assaulting the sergeant--a charge that was dismissed by the judge halfway through the trial amid conflicting testimony by the officers involved.
The confrontation between Bible and Faust was still yet to come, however. Bible says he interviewed Faust as he was preparing his case for the federal lawsuit Gaston filed. Even asking the simplest questions set the officer off, according to Bile. "He started shaking, yelling and slamming his fist on the table," claims Bible, adding that he felt personally threatened. "I think he has a real anger management problem."
Faust, reached by SW at the department's gang unit, where he is now assigned, said department policy prevented him from talking to the press.
If true, Faust's outburst is pretty bizarre. It's bad enough to explode with a "lippy" kid and her protector, or even with a provocative hit-and-run suspect, but doing so with a lawyer? That would seem to indicate someone who has trouble controlling himself.
Gaston's suit resulted in a $20,000 settlement for the probation counselor, according to the city attorney's office.
But whatever Faust's temperament, say this for him: He takes risks. In 2009, he saw an unoccupied car rolling down a hill in the Central District. Faust drove straight toward the runaway car to stop it. Uninjured, he then chased after two suspects who abandoned the car. That year, Faust received the department's Medal of Valor.
Please See Gaston's lawsuit on the next page.