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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Spokane Police Department fires officer who kicked handcuffed suspect in genitals; union authorizes grievance process

UPDATED: Wed., April 29, 2020

Spokane police officer Kristofer Henderson was fired by the department Tuesday due to violating use of force policy. (Spokane Police Department)
Spokane police officer Kristofer Henderson was fired by the department Tuesday due to violating use of force policy. (Spokane Police Department)

The Spokane Police Department on Tuesday terminated the employment of an officer who kicked a handcuffed, resistant suspect in the genitals during a July arrest.

The attorney representing the terminated officer, Kristofer Henderson, said the Spokane Police Guild has authorized a grievance process with the city of Spokane and Henderson hopes to be reinstated.

The police department’s decision came after the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office declined in September to file a misdemeanor assault charge against Henderson because the victim in the case did not wish to cooperate.

The declination came in the same letter in which Mark Cipolla, a senior deputy prosecuting attorney who handles criminal cases, opined that Henderson’s use of force appeared “retaliatory,” “intentional,” and not for the protection of himself or others.

Spokane police resumed an Internal Affairs investigation at that point.

Investigators from the Internal Affairs unit determined in late July that the kick appeared to violate department policy and that the case should be reviewed by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office for criminal charges.

Henderson was placed on administrative leave in July following the initial review.

The Spokesman-Review obtained police reports and body-worn camera footage from the July arrest through a public records request in December.

Video and documents detailed how police were led on a pursuit of Anthony L. Belcourt, now 24, to his home in north central Spokane after a reckless driving incident.

Belcourt abandoned his vehicle in the middle of the road, then ran into his residence and barricaded himself inside while cursing at and insulting officers. He also claimed to have weapons inside.

Within a few minutes Belcourt exited the residence without a weapon, and Henderson arrived as backup as Belcourt dropped onto his stomach and put his hands behind his back.

Belcourt – whom officers estimated to be close to 6 feet tall and 300 pounds – was jerking his body around, trying to pull his arms free and kicking at officers while they tried to put him in handcuffs, according to investigative documents. Police ordered Belcourt to stop resisting, and multiple officers were unsuccessful in an initial attempt to raise him to his feet.

As three officers raised Belcourt to his feet, Belcourt twisted his body away from police and widened his stance, according to investigative documents and video.

Henderson then kicked at Belcourt’s groin area, striking him in the genitals.

When Belcourt yelled out in pain and went to the ground, a voice that sounds like Henderson says, “There you go,” and used an expletive in reference to Belcourt, according to video footage.

Henderson later told investigators he aimed the “Thai kick” at Belcourt’s upper thigh to disrupt his balance. He claimed Belcourt “donkey” kicked an officer in the leg and was flailing around, so he wanted to prevent him from injuring others. The officer reported he was kicked once in the shin in court documents.

Later, while in a police vehicle, Belcourt apologized for his actions, according to investigative documents and video. An officer who responded at the jail to investigate Belcourt for DUI said the suspect smelled of alcohol and his eyes were bloodshot, according to court documents.

Belcourt was charged with reckless driving, along with obstructing police, resisting arrest and assaulting an officer, court records state. His case has since been referred to therapeutic drug court. He has no prior adult criminal record in Washington.

Belcourt, through his girlfriend, declined an interview with The Spokesman-Review in January, and his attorney in the Spokane County Public Defender’s Office also declined to comment.

Henderson almost immediately reported the use of force on Belcourt to a police lieutenant at the scene, saying he had kicked him in the genitals, according to video footage. Henderson later told sheriff’s office investigators that striking a handcuffed individual is an exceptional technique, but he believed the action was reasonable under the circumstances.

Through his attorney Rocky Treppiedi, Henderson said he was disappointed by the department’s decision and that he never used excessive force. He added that he was truthful during all aspects of the initial incident and subsequent investigations.

“He looks forward to vindication in the appeal through the grievance process with the police guild,” Treppiedi said on behalf of Henderson, who hopes to get his job back. “There was no retaliation and officer Henderson apologized (to department officials) early on in the process about the words that he used.”

If Henderson’s claim is not resolved through the initial grievance process, Treppiedi said the next step would be independent arbitration between the police guild and the city.

Police ombudsman Bart Logue said he certified the internal investigation of Henderson’s use of force at the end of November.

A panel of police officials reviewed the facts provided by internal investigators and made potential disciplinary recommendations, which police Chief Craig Meidl used to make a final decision.

“That investigation determined Henderson had violated SPD policy and his employment was terminated,” the police department said in a news release.

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