The city of Lakewood will pay $75,000 to a woman whose arm was broken in two places when police officers attempted to remove her from a market where she was having a mental health crisis, an incident similar to an earlier misdemeanor arrest in which one of the officers broke another woman’s arm.
Young Choi suffered a permanent disability after a bone in her right arm was shattered during her 2018 arrest, according to court documents. A loud “crack” — followed by Choi’s agonized scream — was captured on video taken by a bystander.
Records in US District Court in Seattle indicate that one of the officers involved, David Butts, was sued in 2016 after he pulled a woman out of a car by her hair and took her to the ground following a traffic stop, breaking her wrist and causing other injuries. That case was settled after a judge concluded there were questions about whether Butts and other officers used “objectively unreasonable force” in that arrest.
The city of Lakewood, its Police Department and the attorney who defended the lawsuit did not reply to phone messages Tuesday. Choi’s Seattle attorney, Christopher Carney, said it’s his understanding Butts has left the Lakewood Police Department.
Choi said in a sworn declaration that she has bipolar disorder and was “suffering a manic episode” when she entered Lakewood’s Pal-Do World Market to purchase produce Feb. 21, 2018. She said she began loudly complaining about the quality of the produce, confronting store employees and customers, and then become more upset when another patron began to record the commotion on a cellphone. Management called police. Two officers, Butts and Brian Luttrull, responded.
The bystander’s video shows Choi walking barefoot around the store, confronting workers and other customers. At one point she takes an employee’s cellphone and won’t return it, pushing the other woman and playing keep away as the woman reaches for the device.
Two officers arrive, and one of them — identified in court documents as Luttrull — quickly grabs Choi by the hand and wrist and begins pulling her toward the store entrance. Choi resists and pulls away, yelling “I need my purse!”
Both of the officers are much larger than Choi, who is 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds, according to court documents.
“Neither officer made any effort to reassure me that my purse would be safe or that they would get it for me,” Choi wrote in her sworn declaration filed with the court. “Because I was afraid to lose my purse, I tried to pull in that direction.
“Defendant Luttrull resisted me, yanking on my left arm to pull me back toward him,” Choi wrote. “Because I was afraid, I swung my right arm at Defendant Luttrull’s arms, which were both gripping my left arm by this point.
“Luttrull immediately yanked me facedown to the ground and began to use his weight to immobilize me,” Choi wrote. “Defendant Butts joined … also piling his weight on me.”
Choi said she suffered an abrasion and cut to her forehead from hitting the floor.
“That made me squirm in pain and fear, but I was otherwise immobilized,” she wrote. “While … Luttrull held my left arm still, Defendant Butts pressed down on my torso and yanked my arm behind my back.
“I suddenly felt an unbearable pain and heard a repulsive snapping sound from my right arm,” Choi wrote.
An audible “crack” can be heard in the video footage, as Choi’s right humerus — the long bone between the shoulder and elbow — fractures in two places.
“At this point I was in agony, and my right arm was entirely useless,” she said in her declaration. “Still, the defendants completed the handcuffing process by twisting my broken arm behind my back.”
Court documents indicate that Choi needed surgery to repair the fractures and state that she suffered “permanent damage.”
In an order denying Lakewood’s motion to dismiss the case, US District Judge Robert Bryan said Luttrull’s actions were justified because Choi had resisted him, taken an employee’s cellphone and assaulted the employee by shoving her into a display. Butts’ actions, however, raise constitutional questions, the judge wrote.
“Plaintiff has pointed to sufficient issues of fact, if believed, to find that Officer Butts violated her Fourth Amendment rights when he broke her arm during the course of this arrest,” Bryan wrote.
Bryan was the judge who also presided over the 2016 lawsuit filed against Butts and two other Lakewood officers by Renata Gardner, who was a passenger in a car driven by her husband when he was pulled over for speeding.
The officers decided to arrest Gardner’s husband, who was allegedly driving on a suspended license, and impounded the vehicle despite Gardner’s request that she be allowed to drive it home because she needed it for her job.
Gardner claimed Butts pulled her from the car by her hair and slammed her to the ground, resulting in a deep scalp laceration, permanent hair loss and a broken wrist. She was arrested and charged with obstruction and resisting arrest. Those charges were later dismissed, court records show.
In his order denying the city’s motion to dismiss Gardner’s lawsuit, Bryan wrote that while the officers were justified in arresting Gardner, a jury should decide whether the officers used excessive force in doing so.
Details of the settlement in Gardner’s case were not immediately available.