MILL CREEK — A Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy who is seen in a video punching a suspect lying on the ground was fired last year for allegedly violating department policy. He was reinstated in January by newly elected Sheriff Adam Fortney.
The deputy, Evan Twedt, took part in covering up a warrantless search in 2017, former Sheriff Ty Trenary concluded last year after reviewing an internal investigation.
Since his rehiring by Fortney, who used to be his patrol supervisor, Twedt has been back on patrol. The video, which recently surfaced on social media, shows him hitting a man repeatedly during an arrest on May 28.
That use of force is under a supervisor’s review. According to sheriff’s spokesperson Courtney O’Keefe, Fortney is aware of the incident, but the sheriff did not offer further comment.
According to reports provided to The Daily Herald by the sheriff’s office, deputies had developed probable cause to arrest the suspect for investigation of possession of a stolen vehicle, attempting to elude police and a hit and run on an attended vehicle.
In the 2017 case which led to his firing last year, Twedt assisted deputy Matt Boice in arresting a man who had been pulled over for going 10 mph over the speed limit. A drug pipe was in open view on the passenger side of the vehicle. Twedt also found meth in the man’s pocket and a bag of ammo in the driver’s door.
Boice asked for the suspect’s permission to search the car, but he declined to grant it. At some point Twedt looked through the trunk anyway, in violation of sheriff’s office policy and case law. In Trenary’s summary of the internal investigation, he wrote that Boice and Twedt later claimed it was OK because it was an “inventory search.” The deputies found a shotgun, and as a felon, it was a crime for the driver to have a gun.
In his termination letter, Twedt was accused of coaching a young deputy trainee in filling out a search warrant and leaving out the fact they already had found a shotgun.
Twedt and Boice were both fired by Trenary on Nov. 1, less than a week before the general election. The decision became controversial, with Fortney, Trenary’s opponent and then a sheriff’s sergeant, claiming the terminations were politically motivated. Fortney supervised Twedt and Boice on the night shift patrol in the South Precinct, and both were vocal supporters of his campaign.
“I do not believe either Deputy Boice or Deputy Twedt purposefully violated any laws, nor were they dishonest in any of the dealings related to this matter,” Fortney wrote of his decision to reinstate the two deputies.
The 23-second video of May 28 depicts a scene that took place around 5 a.m. It apparently was recorded with a cellphone from the second story of a house on 35th Avenue Southeast, near Southeast 132nd Street, a little north of Mill Creek.
The video begins with a deputy pulling a man out of a van and forcing him to the pavement in a driveway. The man appears to lie still as the deputy rapidly punches him at least 10 times while two other deputies help keep him on the ground. The man can be heard talking. “Hey I’m not resisting, guys,” he says. He claims he has an auto-immune deficiency and that he’s positive for COVID-19.
A woman in the driver’s seat also appears to be talking but is inaudible in the video. At one point, a deputy turns around, points at her and says, “Shut up.”
In Twedt’s version of events in a later report, the suspect was resisting arrest and had dug his fingernails into the deputy’s hand. In the video, the view of their hands is blocked and it’s impossible to tell how, or if, the suspect resisted.
Events leading to the arrest began with Twedt parked at the Rite-Aid on 132nd Street SE. Another deputy told him about a stolen 2008 Audi A4. Across the street were the Mill Pointe Apartments. Twedt could see an Audi and a woman walking around, yelling.
Twedt was there looking for a fourth-degree assault suspect who also had a felony warrant. The suspect reportedly had thrown a bottle of vodka and orange juice at his ex-girlfriend a few days before. He was known to stay in a green Ford Windstar and to frequent the apartments, Twedt wrote in his report.
A chaotic scene quickly unfolded, Twedt wrote. A Ford Mustang sped down 132nd Street SE and turned into the apartment complex. Screaming and yelling followed, and soon people were running in all directions.
Another deputy reported that the person who owned the Audi also drove a Ford Mustang. Twedt wrote that he believed a confrontation with the alleged vehicle thief was under way.
The Mustang and the Windstar left the parking lot. The Mustang was being driven aggressively, forcing the Windstar to veer all over the road. Twedt wrote that he reported to other deputies that “an assault was likely imminent based on the escalating situation.”
Another deputy pulled over the Mustang. A woman got out of the passenger seat, yelling, “He just stole our vehicle,” pointing at what appeared to be an Audi driving down 132nd Street SE.
A third deputy chased the Audi. Through interviews with witnesses, the vehicle theft suspect was identified as the same man Twedt was initially seeking for the domestic violence assault.
Deputies lost sight of the Audi. After searching the area, though, they eventually found the Windstar which their suspect was known to drive and pulled it over in the 12700 block of 35th Avenue SE.
The suspect hid under a blanket in the backseat, Twedt wrote. He could not see the man’s hands and was worried that he might have a gun or another weapon.
Twedt reportedly ordered him to open the door. The man didn’t comply, according to the deputy’s report. Eventually, a woman in the driver’s seat unlocked the doors.
Twedt reported that he told the man to get out, but “he remained in place just staring at me,” with his hands near his chest. The deputy pulled the man out of the van and forced him to the ground.
In his report, Twedt claims the suspect was resisting while he was being handcuffed. The man allegedly tensed up his muscles and grabbed the deputy’s hand.
“He had long fingernails and I felt them dig into my skin as I did not have the chance to put gloves on,” Twedt wrote.
Twedt reported that he “delivered a few close hand strikes” to the the top of the suspect’s fist as he ordered him to release his grip. The man reportedly did let go, briefly, but grabbed Twedt’s hand again. Twedt wrote that he delivered another round of punches.
After the man let go again, Twedt was able to handcuff him. The Audi was found nearby and was impounded pending a search warrant.
The suspect was booked into the Snohomish County Jail for fourth-degree domestic violence assault and a parole violation. A judge found probable cause and released the man on June 2, with the stipulation that he appear at future court hearings.
Court records indicate the case was dismissed when no criminal complaint was filed in time. The sheriff’s office had not referred charges related to vehicle theft.
For the 2017 warrantless search, Twedt and Boice were both put on the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office Potential Impeachment Disclosure list, more commonly known as a Brady list, which keeps a record of police officers with documented histories of lying.
Under a landmark 1963 ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, prosecutors must tell the defense about any evidence that could exonerate the accused. Failing to disclose Brady material can lead to a charge being dismissed or a conviction reversed. Having a “Brady cop” as a witness does not make a trial unwinnable for the prosecution, but it can create an extra hurdle in meeting the burden of proof.
Despite their reinstatements, Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell told The Herald, both would remain on the list.