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City settles lawsuit with man injured by police in 2008

The city of Spokane has agreed to pay $49,500 to a guest of the Davenport Hotel who suffered shoulder injuries when he was tackled by police in 2008.

Charles J. Potter was charged with obstruction of justice and resisting arrest in connection with an August 2008 confrontation in which he expressed concern about how police were treating two young men they were arresting. He was acquitted by a Spokane Municipal Court jury, then sued officers Corey Lyons and Jake Jensen in U.S. District Court.

The officers were cleared in internal police investigations.

The settlement, obtained through a public records request, said the city also agreed to provide a letter to Potter “expressing the Department’s regret for the injuries Mr. Potter suffered.”

The incident involving Potter came during the same time frame – between 2007 and 2011 – when the police department investigated 492 uses of force and found all were justified.

According to court documents, Potter walked into the valet parking area of the Davenport Hotel at about 1 a.m. on Aug. 2, 2008.

As he waited, Potter saw Spokane police officers escorting two men out of the hotel and witnessed what he believed to be unnecessarily rough treatment of them.

Potter “was appalled by the police officer’s abusive treatment of the obviously restrained young men,” court records say, and approached the officers.

Officer Lyons twice ordered Potter to get back, but Potter replied that he thought it was his responsibility to ensure the men were treated properly, court records say.

Potter said one of the officers grabbed him, twisted his arm behind his back and placed him in a chokehold. He was then arrested and booked into jail. He had surgery several weeks later to repair a tear in his rotator cuff, court records say.

Spokane police Chief Frank Straub said he couldn’t comment specifically about the case, but said that it’s time to stop dwelling on alleged misconduct from several years ago.

“We got it. We learned. We understand that there was a pattern of behavior that we can’t engage in anymore,” Straub said. “We’re moving forward and we’re moving forward very quickly to become a different police department.”

Staff writer Jennifer Pignolet contributed to this report.

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