SEATTLE – The call from the Federal Bureau of Investigation surprised Jeff Gold. It has been nearly two years since Gold was left bloodied and bruised by King County Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Paul.
“And this guy’s still on the street? I just don’t understand. Really, what has to happen for this guy to lose his job?” Gold said.
The KING 5 Investigators uncovered Gold’s case while investigating Deputy Paul’s use of force following a tragic case in May 2009 that cost taxpayers a $10 million settlement. Chris Harris was wrongly identified as a suspect and when Deputy Paul slammed him into a wall in Seattle he was left brain damaged for life.
Yet Paul was put right back to work patrolling the streets where he continued to use force and rack up complaints. One of those cases was Jeff Gold’s.
Gold was walking home to his Queen Anne apartment in Seattle in May 2010, when he stopped to photograph Deputy Paul questioning people at a bus shelter. Gold still has the photographs. One shows Deputy Paul looking directly at him. Gold described the look on the deputy’s face as “chilling.”
Paul told Gold to leave and eventually Gold did. But he also jaywalked. And when the deputy ordered Gold to come back, he kept going.
“At which point he took off at a sprint and it looked like a rhinoceros bearing down on me,” Gold said. “I was running away from him so he grabbed me from behind and thrust me to the ground and my face smashed into the pavement.”
Gold was arrested for obstruction of justice, but he was never charged with a crime. He fired off an angry e-mail to the Sheriff’s office but his demands for an investigation fell on deaf ears.
After KING 5 News confronted the sheriff about Paul’s history of using force and racking up complaints, the deputy was put on a “Performance Improvement Plan” to correct his “unsatisfactory performance” on patrol which had “resulted in verbal conflicts, physical confrontations, use of force and marginal arrests.”
The sheriff said “I do believe he can make some different decisions and we want him to make some different decisions. I’m not going to go on television and trash one of my employees, but I’m also not going to ignore a pattern that I’m concerned about.”
The Sheriff isn’t the only one who’s concerned.
Sources tell KING 5 that the Department of Justice is investigating whether Deputy Paul used excessive force in Gold’s case “under the color of the law”—a potential civil rights violation that can lead to criminal charges.
“The FBI has contacted me twice and asked me to come to the federal courthouse,” Gold said. “At both meetings the FBI was represented and the U.S. District Attorney’s office was represented.” Gold said he was asked for details of his encounter with the deputy and shown dozens of photos of the scene.
Gold has also filed a federal lawsuit. It names not just King County, but Sheriff Rahr and Deputy Paul individually.
In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Gold accuses the deputy of assault, excessive force, and false arrest. Gold also alleges the sheriff was negligent in training, supervising and retaining the deputy.
“The bottom line is, there is a pattern of excessive force on behalf of this deputy and there is a pattern of turning a blind eye to what he has done,” said Gold’s attorney, Sim Osborn.
Deputy Paul is still working patrol and is assigned to Southeast King County.
The King County Sheriff’s Office wouldn’t comment for this story and neither would the Department of Justice.
FBI spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich said “The FBI is aware of the (Gold) incident and takes complaints of violations of federal law seriously. The FBI reviews allegations of criminal conduct for their merit and, when warranted, conducts further investigation.”