Homeless man injured in arrest ‘betrayed' by no charging decision

South Bureau Chief Drew Mikkelsen reports.

Nicholas Heflin feels betrayed.

At least that’s how his attorney Jeanette Boothe described her client’s reaction to news two Shelton police officers will not be charged for their actions during a May arrest of Heflin.

“He teared up, he looked extremely upset,” said Boothe, “He said how can they do that? They tried to kill me.”

Booth said Heflin suffered multiple broken bones in his face when he was arrested.

The officers were fired last week for violating department policy during the arrest, but Mason County Prosecutor Michael Dorcy decided Monday not to charge the officers with any crimes.

KING 5 is not naming the officers since they were not charged.

Heflin had been sleeping on the back porch of a homeless shelter when the arrest happened.

The non-profit had in the past asked Shelton police to remove anyone who slept outside the property.

Body camera videos from the two officers show them approaching Helfin and giving him verbal warnings to show them his hands. When he doesn’t respond, one of the officers sprays pepper spray in the man’s face.

After telling Helfin to get up he suddenly rises and is tackled by the officers.

For more than four minutes the officers can be heard struggling with the man, who was tased by one of the officers.

After backup officers arrive the man is taken into custody.

Shelton Police Chief Darrin Moody said because force was used, the department opened a personnel investigation into the arrest.

He also decided to have an independent agency, Thurston County, investigate it as a potential criminal matter.

Thurston County’s investigator determined the only people showing aggressive behavior during the arrest were the two officers. The investigator found the use of force was not necessary or reasonable and unlawful, according to documents.

The review recommended the two officers be charged with assault in the second degree.

Dorcy said that investigation did not go deep enough, and he sought the opinion of a use-of-force expert.

Robert Bragg is the Defensive Tactics Program Manager for the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. Dorcy said Bragg felt the decision of the officers to tackle Heflin after he rose was reasonable, and not “inconsistent with appropriate police training and tactics,” according to Dorcy.

While Helfin and his attorneys are planning on suing the former officers and the City of Shelton, Boothe said her client wanted the officers charged.

“He felt they should see the inside of a courtroom,” said Boothe.

Alan Harvey, the attorney for the two officers, said his clients were engaged in lawful conduct trying to remove someone who had been trespassing.

Harvey said the officers were only following policy at a department where that kind of engagement with the homeless was encouraged.

© 2017 KING-TV


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