A May 24 body-camera video shows an Everett police sergeant placing handcuffs on Joseph Michael Hill while kneeling on his back. (Everett Police Department)

A May 24 body-camera video shows an Everett police sergeant placing handcuffs on Joseph Michael Hill while kneeling on his back. (Everett Police Department)

Plea deal reached in case of Black man pinned by Everett cop

Joseph Hill’s arrest led Everett police to amend their policy. All charges except resisting arrest were dropped.

EVERETT — A man who served a month in jail for running from Everett police will serve no more time behind bars for the offense, in a case that prompted the police department to clarify its policy about a technique to pin suspects with a knee to the back.

The arrest of Joseph Michael Hill, 39, a Black man, came the day before police killed George Floyd while detaining him in Minneapolis.

Body-worn camera footage showed Hill repeating, “I can’t breathe,” as a police sergeant held him down by kneeling on his back in a yard in south Everett.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman said the pinning techniques vastly differed: The officer in Hill’s case applied pressure to the shoulders and not directly to the neck, and it lasted 14 seconds — much shorter than the 8-minute suffocation of Floyd.

Nonetheless, both incidents led Everett police to add a line to the policy manual explicitly telling officers to move a restrained person to a position where it’s easier to breathe “at the earliest safe opportunity.” The police chief said that was already an unwritten policy, but now it’s codified. Templeman determined the sergeant acted within the updated policy.

Hill pleaded guilty to resisting arrest Monday. Other charges of fourth-degree domestic violence assault and criminal trespassing were dropped in the plea deal. Everett Municipal Court Judge Amy Kaestner sentenced Hill to 30 days in jail. He had already served that time while waiting to post bond.

A neighbor reported a possible domestic violence assault with a knife around 6 a.m. May 24. Initially, Hill’s off-and-on girlfriend identified her boyfriend as the attacker. The neighbor told police Hill may have a knife, police reports say. Officers searched the neighborhood and found Hill on a roof, saying he didn’t want to go to jail. Officers surrounded him, then chased him when he ran. A sheriff’s deputy rushed at him with a barking police dog. Hill surrendered and dropped to his belly until the sergeant caught up to him.

The sergeant hopped a fence and pinned Hill, who then told police he could not breathe and that he was having a seizure. The sergeant wrote that he “clearly was not” having a seizure. Hill’s defense attorney questioned how the officer could have known that.

 

In custody, Hill told officers the woman actually attacked him, striking him with a glass object and throwing steak knives at him, and that he defended himself and ran. The girlfriend had an injury to her face, as if she had been punched. She told police Hill did not use a knife, nor did he threaten her with a weapon. She declined to cooperate with police — and, in the end, the assault charge was dropped.

The crime “sounds so bad,” defense lawyer Maxwell Mensinger said, “but when the facts emerge, the truth is … ultimately a lot sadder.”

Hill and his attorney seriously considered taking the case to trial, delaying the case over the past months. Instead, they took the plea deal as a practical decision to ensure he would serve no more jail time, though Hill maintained he had been wronged by the system even as he read over the paperwork in court Monday, Mensinger said.

“You never know if a jury’s going to do the right thing,” Hill’s attorney said. “This took a lot of the risk off the table and that’s why he chose it.”

Mensinger said he was disappointed police did not apologize for pinning Hill in a way that the defense saw as unnecessary and as potentially deadly force.

Police reports said Hill had a wad of cash in his pocket and nothing else. Yet the allegations that he had a weapon on him were used to argue for an amount of bail that effectively kept Hill jailed, Mensinger said. Hill managed to post $10,000 bond in late June.

“One of the lessons to be learned,” Mensinger said, “is that information police are receiving when they’re trying to track people down is not always reliable.”

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Amethyst Skeels and Alexander Walsh pick out cannabis products at Kushman's Everett Cannabis Dispensary on Evergreen Way on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020 in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Cannabis sales surge, proving pot is pandemic-proof

There are more customers, and some regulars are stocking up — just in case there’s a shortage.

Leslie Bringedahl grabs a bag containing books she and her husband Mark ordered after Circulation Manager Carol  puts them down on a wall during curbside pickup at the Everett Public Library on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 in Everett, Wa.(Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Everett council looks to fund fireworks, Jetty Island ferry

The Carl Gipson Senior Center and boosting library funding are also “quality of life” priorities.

Controlled explosion rattles Cathcart and much of the county

Deputies were investigating a 19-year-old who had an “enormous amount of fireworks” near Silver Lake.

Police: Suspect in fatal hit-and-run may have used marijuana

The Lynnwood man allegedly didn’t stop to check on a pedestrian whom he hit with a pickup truck.

Santa Claus is coming to town, despite the coronavirus

He’ll follow social distancing. In one setting, children are invited to “call out” their wishes.

Lynnwood man in custody after pedestrian is killed in crash

The sheriff’s office said detectives are investigating the suspect for DUI, hit and run, and vehicular homicide.

This series of screenshots taken from an iPhone with COVID-19 exposure notifications turned on for Washington state shows some of the information presented to iPhone users who are considering opting in to a new statewide coronavirus exposure notification program that was launched Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Washington state that uses smartphone technology in the ongoing effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. People with Apple iPhones can now enable the 'exposure notifications' feature that is already in their phone's settings, and Android devices can download the app, called Washington Exposure Notifications. Use of the service is voluntary and users can opt out at any time. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Washington launches statewide COVID-19 notification app

Modeling predicted significant decreases in infections and deaths if at least 15% of people use the app.

Driver arrested after allegedly hitting woman in crosswalk

The suspect was driving an SUV on Highway 99 in Lynnwood and is under investigation for DUI.

Snohomish County Jail. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Snohomish County Jail employee charged in drug smuggling

Alexis Wafstet was charged with drug possession. Several inmates were allegedly in on the plot.

Most Read