Deputy Fired for Seattle WTO Brutality is Reinstated

A King County sheriff’s deputy who…pepper-sprayed two art students in a car and kicked a medic as she knelt on the ground…during the 1999 World Trade Organization unrest in Seattle will get his job back,
an arbitrator ruled yesterday.

A King County sheriff’s deputy who was fired for using excessive force during the 1999 World Trade Organization unrest in Seattle will get his job back, an arbitrator ruled yesterday.

Sheriff Dave Reichert fired John Vanderwalker in April 2000 after a long internal investigation into accusations that he pepper-sprayed two art
students in a car and kicked a medic as she knelt on the ground in unrelated incidents Dec. 1, 1999, during WTO protests.

"The arbitrator basically ruled that it was OK to pepper-spray those girls in the car, and it was OK to kick that medical worker while she was on the
ground,"Sgt. John Urquhart, spokesman for the sheriff’s office said. "We disagree, and we believe it was a legitimate termination."

Both WTO incidents were captured on videotape.

In one of the most widely publicized incidents stemming from the WTO, two art students shooting footage from a car in a Capitol Hill parking lot
captured an officer as he approached them, ordered them to roll down their window, and then doused them with pepper spray.

The students, Shauna Balaski and Melissa Benton, sued King County over the incident and received $100,000 as part of a settlement.

In the second incident, caught by a news camera, an apparently disoriented woman wearing a red-and-white arm band and holding a first aid kit is
crouching on the ground. An officer then runs up and kicks her in the back, knocking her forward.

In his 10-page ruling, Michael DeGrasse, an independent professional arbitrator hired by both sides to rule on the appeal, said that Vanderwalker’s use of force was appropriate under the circumstances.

Ruling on an appeal to last year’s firing of Vanderwalker, DeGrasse ordered the King County Sheriff’s Office to reinstate the former deputy to
his patrol position in the Maple Valley precinct.

The binding ruling also compels the county to compensate Vanderwalker for back wages and lost off-duty and overtime pay.

Vanderwalker, 48, was a 19-year veteran on the force before his firing. When asked about his reinstatement, he told The Associated Press, "This is great."

Author: Lewis Kamb can be reached at 206-615-1246 or lewiskamb@seattlepi.com

News Service: Seattle Post-Intellligencer

URL: http://seattlep-i.nwsource.com/local/24461_wto24.shtml