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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Deputy who broke 8 ribs of man he arrested in Spokane Valley park says he was concerned about knife

This still from body camera footage shows Kevin Hinton shortly before he was severely injured by Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Clay Hilton during an arrest. The case against Hinton was later dropped.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s sergeant who broke multiple ribs of a man parked in a Spokane Valley park late one night in August acknowledged hitting the 62-year-old multiple times, according to a police report he wrote following the confrontation.

Sgt. Clay Hilton faced scrutiny earlier this month when attorneys for the man Hilton arrested, Kevin Hinton, released body camera footage of a violent arrest in the parking lot. Hinton sustained eight broken ribs, a collapsed lung, split lip and concussion among other injuries.

Hilton said he acted, in part, out of concern that Hinton could have reached for a knife in his car, according to records released Tuesday.

Hilton lived across the street from the Terrace View Park parking lot where he arrested Hinton.

“To me, it just gives it a very personal feel – a ‘not in my neighborhood’ style of policing,” said Tim Note, Hinton’s attorney. “It makes it highly unlikely that he was on routine patrol. I don’t know if he was coming and going from lunch, if his ring camera notified him that there was a car across the street … It’s probably more than coincidental that this took place where it took place.”

Hinton was cited for being in the park after dark, along with resisting arrest and obstruction. Those charges were dropped when Note brought the body camera footage of the arrest to prosecutors, he said. Hinton’s civil attorney, Josh Maurer, said his client intends to file a lawsuit against the county over the arrest.

Hilton, 50, remains on leave from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office while the Spokane Police Department investigates the incident.

The incident occurred inside the City of Spokane Valley, which contracts with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office to provide public safety services to the city.

Sergeant’s report

Just before midnight, Hilton wrote he observed a gray Audi wagon parked in the Terrace View park parking lot outside of legal park hours, according to Hilton’s police report, which The Spokesman-Review obtained through a public records request.

He did not indicate he was dispatched to the call, according to his police report.

Hilton wrote that he smelled “the strong odor of burnt marijuana,” as he approached the vehicle.

There were no controlled substances found in his client’s car, Note said.

The sergeant said Hinton was “instantly confrontational” and declined to identify himself. The sergeant also spotted a folding knife in Hinton’s driver side door and a fixed-blade knife slightly behind.

Hilton requested backup “due to Hinton’s confrontational demeanor and having access to edged weapons.” The sergeant writes that Hinton refuted his assertion that being in the park after hours was a crime.

According to Spokane Valley City Code, being in a park after hours is an infraction. The sergeant reported that he cited Hinton for, among other things, violating a City of Spokane park law – even though that park law doesn’t apply in Spokane Valley. The city of Spokane recently made it an arrestable offense to be in parks after hours.

“This is just a wrong belief on the part of the Valley sheriff’s office,” Note said.

Hilton writes that Hinton continued to refuse to give him his name.

“Due to Hinton not complying to my lawful demands, I advised him he was under arrest,” Hilton writes.

The sergeant then describes the arrest, writing that Hinton refused to turn around and jumped into the driver’s seat when Hilton tried to handcuff him.

“Fearing Hinton was attempting to gain access to a weapon, I attempted to pull him out of his vehicle and his shirt ripped,” Hilton wrote. “Hinton continued to physically resist arrest, and I applied a closed fist strike to the left side of his face.”

The sergeant goes on to describe Hinton attempting to stand up, at which point he kneed him twice.

“As Hinton refused to give me control of his hands, I struck him two times in the side of the head/face, which caused him to fall flat,” Hilton wrote.

Note disputes Hilton’s characterization of Hinton resisting arrest.

After Hilton struck Hinton, additional deputies arrived and Hinton was handcuffed.

At least eight other deputies were on scene at various points, according to body camera footage.

Deputy Darren Davis confirmed in his report what Hinton’s attorneys previously said, that jail staff refused to book him because he needed treatment for his injuries.

Davis took Hinton to Multicare Deaconess Hospital, where he was admitted.

Note told Spokane police investigators he believes Hilton was wearing a padded “tactical” glove, according to a search warrant and Note. The investigators searched Hilton’s locker and patrol car for the gear he was wearing during the incident.

Hilton declined to speak with The Spokesman-Review earlier this month.

His attorney, Mary Schultz, who is representing Hilton and another deputy in a soon-to-be filed lawsuit against appellate court Judge George Fearing, encouraged looking at the totality of the circumstances Hilton faced.

“The danger of these stops to the officer under the conditions presented has to be considered,” Schultz wrote in a text. “We have to look at the situation as a whole, and then look again literally frame by frame, to understand why things can evolve the way they do in a matter of seconds.”

Use-of-force review

According to the sergeant’s police report, Hilton acknowledges hitting Hinton fives times: three times in the head or face and twice in the side, according to his police report.

When deputies use force, they are required to report and document it, along with articulating why the force was reasonable under the circumstances, according to the sheriff’s office policy manual.

Once a supervisor is notified, they should respond if possible and interview the person the force was used against.

In this case, Deputy Jason Hunt responded and spoke briefly with Hinton. Hinton multiple times throughout the approximately 30 minutes on scene alleged that the sergeant had brutally assaulted him for no reason, according to body camera footage.

“Do I look OK to you? I’ve just been beat up for nothing … by one of your officers who is over there bragging about it,” Hinton said. “You’ve got a little something on your face. What is this? What is that?”

Hinton referenced Hilton apparently telling him he had something on his face as the 62-year-old sat handcuffed and bloody.

The interaction is captured on Hunt’s body camera but without sound, as Hunt along with other deputies turned off their audio.

Following a use-of-force incident, the supervisor is required to determine if there’s any indication of potential civil litigation, evaluate the circumstances and initiate an administrative investigation if there’s a question of policy noncompliance, according to the policy manual.

Hinton made it clear following the incident he would take legal action against the sheriff’s office and made multiple complaints about Hilton.

“That cop is dangerous. He’s going to kill somebody. He could have killed me,” Hinton said. “Did you see what he said? ‘Oh, you’ve got a little something on your face?’ Are you … kidding me?”

Hunt reviewed Hilton’s police report on Aug. 16, two days after the incident.

Sheriff John Nowels in a statement said that he did not learn of the situation until a Spokane County prosecutor alerted him to the body camera footage.

For Note, the apparent taunting of Hilton and lack of reporting of the situation up the chain of command points to a cultural problem in the sheriff’s office.

“Why that is striking to me is, he is saying that in front of another supervisory level sheriff’s office employee, another sergeant, and all those subordinates, and he doesn’t seem to have a problem,” Note said. “I think that speaks to that larger cultural issue.”

No other deputies have been placed on leave related to the incident, according to a public records request and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Cpl. Mark Gregory.

The sheriff’s office temporarily unpublished its Facebook page due to backlash following the release of the video.

It has since republished the page, along with a social media disclaimer policy. In a Facebook post, the sheriff’s officials indicated they have been advised by legal counsel not to make any additional statements until the Spokane Police Department’s investigation is concluded.

“We must protect the integrity of the independent investigation and work to uphold the rights of everyone involved,” the post reads.