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

Spokane Police find probable cause to charge deputy for violent arrest that left man with 8 broken ribs

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.

Spokane Police investigators found probable cause to charge a Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Deputy with assault for a violent arrest this summer, the department announced Wednesday.

The Spokane County Prosecutor’s office anticipates sending the case out of county for a review, Preston McCollam, chief criminal deputy prosecutor wrote in an email. That prosecutor will decided whether to pursue criminal charges against Sgt. Clay Hilton.

Hilton, 50, has been on leave since October when attorneys for Kevin Hinton, 62, brought body camera footage of Hinton’s August arrest to light.

Hinton was driving home from visiting his new baby granddaughter when he stopped in Terrace View Park to nap.

The sergeant told Hinton it was illegal for him to be in the park after dark and asked for identification.

When Hinton refused, the sergeant pulled him out of his car and violently arrested him, which can be seen in body camera footage of the incident.

Hinton was left with eight broken ribs, a punctured lung, severe concussion, shoulder injury and disfigured lip, according to the attorneys he hired, Tim Note and Josh Maurer.

It later came out that the sergeant lives across the street from the park. In his report on the incident, the sergeant wrote he was concerned Hinton could have been reaching for a knife in his car, according to records obtained by The Spokesman-Review.

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, Maurer, said his client intends to file a lawsuit against the county.

“I’m absolutely thrilled that there’s going to be some level of accountability for Sgt. Clay Hilton,” Note said Wednesday.

If charged and convicted of the felony, Hilton would no longer be able to work as a peace officer in Washington state and would have to serve at least three to nine months in custody, Note said.

The incident is also being investigated on the federal level, Note said. Federal prosecutors can bring civil rights violation charges, which Note feels would be appropriate in this case.

“I think they work closely enough with our local law enforcement that if they’re prosecuting a local law enforcement officer it creates an appearance of a potential conflict,” he said. “And can put a lot of pressure on whoever is prosecuting the case because they have other cases with coworkers of the person they’re prosecuting.”

Spokane County Sheriff John Nowels put Hilton on leave in late September when the attorneys notified him of the body camera footage. Nowels asked Spokane Police to investigate.

The investigation was completed this week, and a probable cause affidavit to charge Hilton with second degree assault was sent to the prosecutor’s office.

In a statement Wednesday, Nowels thanked Spokane Police for their thoroughness and professionalism during the investigation.

He noted that an independent use-of-force expert reviewed the incident as part of the investigation.

“I know and understand misconduct allegations are of great concern to our community,” Nowels wrote. “Again, I assure you that claims of misconduct are, and will be, taken seriously. That’s why I requested the Spokane Police Department investigate this incident independently.”

Note said his understanding is that the subject mater expert found the sergeant’s conduct to be “abhorrent.”

Now that the criminal investigation is complete, the sheriff’s office will conduct a comprehensive internal investigation to identify any policy violations and what changes and possible training are needed, Nowels said.

Hilton remains on paid administrative leave. He did not immediately respond to request for comment.

“I again ask you, the community we serve, for your patience as this continues through the criminal justice system and our internal investigations process,” Nowels said. “We must ensure the rights of everyone involved are protected while resisting the urge to rush toward judgment.”

When reached by phone, Nowels declined to answer questions beyond the written statement, citing advice of legal council.