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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Debate stirs over video of Thursday arrest of homeless Spokane man

A short video depicting Alonzo Paige, 30, of Spokane, being physically restrained by an unnamed Spokane officer was uploaded to social media Thursday night. Police released the body camera footage on Friday. It showed Paige appearing to move his arm toward the officer as if he might take a swing at the officer, before the officer took him to the ground.  (Screenshot of Spokane Police Department body camera)

The Spokane Police Department released a statement and footage from a body camera Friday, following the wide circulation of a cellphone video showing the arrest of a homeless man in front of the Spokane Dream Center near downtown.

A short video depicting Alonzo Paige, 30, of Spokane, being physically restrained by an unnamed Spokane officer was uploaded to social media Thursday night. In it, a woman can be heard asking if Paige had been using drugs and whether the officer was choking him.

By Friday morning, the video had been shared hundreds of times, with commenters tagging local elected leaders and police reform activists. Police spokesperson Julie Humphreys initially declined to provide much detail into the case or the names of either the suspect or the arresting officer, saying the department was looking into the incident.

Humphreys, however, said officers had been dispatched due to reports Paige was committing assault, and that he attempted to assault the arresting officer prior to the incident.

By early afternoon, reformers decided to hold a news conference at Riverfront Park at 7 p.m. Saturday, said Anwar Peace, the Spokane Human Rights Commission chair and a frequent critic of local police. Peace argued the officer’s tactics were unnecessarily aggressive and, without further evidence, he believed the police department’s early statements were a “bald-faced lie.”

By Friday evening, the Spokane Police Department released footage from the officer’s body camera depicting the incident. The footage shows the officer initially responding to a report from the Union Gospel Mission.

An security guard who was not identified told the officer that Paige appeared to have mental health issues and regularly walked by the UGM building.

On Thursday, the security guard said Paige threw an apple toward an unknown person riding a scooter, narrowly missing the rider’s head, although the rider did not appear to have noticed.

The security guard said she told Paige to leave the rider alone, at which point Paige allegedly threatened to “cut (her) throat,” approached her aggressively and was “trying to spit.”

At some point, Paige allegedly grabbed a hat off the sidewalk and threw it at the security guard, though it did not strike her.

The officer left the scene, hearing reports that someone matching the suspect’s description had been seen nearby. In front of the Spokane Dream Center, the officer seemingly stopped to adjust his gloves and shoes, withdrew his stun gun and told Paige to get on the ground.

Paige, holding only a pizza box, was not initially cooperative, saying with frustration that he had talked to someone else “eight times.” The officer continued to order Paige to get on the ground, at which point Paige threw the pizza box to the ground.

After the officer got closer, Paige appeared to have jerked his arm as if he was about to throw a punch in the officer’s direction before pulling back, at which point the officer took Paige down and physically restrained him

“Quit it,” the officer yelled as he took him to the ground. “Do not swing at me.”

Paige responded: “I’m done.”

The officer did not deploy his stun gun and kept Paige in a hold for about 30 seconds before getting up and handcuffing Paige while Paige remained on the ground.

The officer stood him up after about 1 minute, 30 seconds from the moment he first took him to the ground.

Despite release of the video, Peace still called into question police tactics, arguing the officer did not attempt to de-escalate the situation. He also questions whether Paige’s actions constituted assault.

Humphreys declined to release the officer’s name, saying it was not department practice to do so.

As of the end of day Friday, Paige remains in custody. According to the police department, he is being charged with obstructing a law enforcement officer, as well as third- and fourth-degree assault.