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Claim alleges police misconduct

Island woman says she was assaulted, wrongly detained by Bainbridge Police.

A Bainbridge woman this week filed a $400,000 da mages claim against the city, stemming from a September traffic stop in which the woman and her husband were arrested.

In her claim, filed Monday, Kim Koenig alleged that Bainbridge Police Officer Steve Cain “strangled and manhandled [her], touched [her] offensively and injured me physically and emotionally.” Koenig claims she was kept in a holding cell for 90 minutes, and later “falsely” cited for obstructing and resisting arrest “in order to retaliate against me and cover up (the officer’s) wrongdoing.”

Koenig deferred comment to her attorney, who could not be reached in time for comment in this story.

Attorney Richard Jolley, representing the city, said the incident already has been independently investigated by two other police departments. Both investigations were based on interviews with those involved, he said.

Puyallup Police investigated whether a crime was committed by Bainbridge officers, while Mercer Island Police sought to determine whether officers violated internal city policies. Both departments ruled the actions of the Bainbridge officers in the incident were justified.

“The city takes any kind of investigation like this very seriously,” Jolley said. “Our hope is that this will not turn into a lawsuit, but if it does we would vigorously defend against it and are confident the city and the officers involved will be completely vindicated.”

Under state law, a claim for damages against a government entity is a prerequisite to a lawsuit, which can be filed after 60 days have elapsed from the time the claim is filed. That means Koenig, an attorney, could file suit in April.

Koenig and her husband John Muenster were pulled over for speeding on Sportsman Club Road just after midnight on Sept. 30, according to both Koenig’s claim and police reports.

From there, accounts diverge.

According to a written incident report by Bainbridge Officer Richard Christopher, who made the initial stop, a “heavy odor of alcohol” emanated from the vehicle when he approached. The report said Muenster – who was driving at the time – told Christopher he’d had “a couple of drinks” and that the pair had just come from a party.

Noticing signs of impairment, Christopher asked Muenster to get out of the car. When he did, his wife followed suit, was “very loud” and was “staggering and swaying as she walked towards me.”

Worried about safety, Christopher ordered the couple back into the vehicle and called for backup. When Cain arrived, Muenster was again asked to exit the vehicle; Koenig was told to stay put or risk arrest, the report says.

Despite the warning, both officers wrote, Koenig got out of the car and eventually was placed under arrest by Cain for obstruction and resisting arrest. Muenster was arrested for first degree negligent driving and cited for speeding.

Cain said in his report that Koenig was uncooperative despite repeated warnings, and resisted throughout.

“She was continually screaming and pulling against me and lunging in different directions,” Cain wrote. “I finally had to pull her along with me, since she refused to walk.”

The reports say both officers believed Koenig and her husband were intoxicated during the incident, though it’s not clear if breath tests were given to either of them.

Koenig’s claim doesn’t detail the sequence of events, but does allege the incident included a “prolonged violent assault and unlawful and unconstitutional detention” by Cain.

She was treated at Harrison Hospital and elsewhere for injuries resulting from the incident, according to her claim.

“In addition to medical expenses, as a result of Officer Cain’s actions I have incurred legal expenses and suffered property losses, and general damages in the form of physical and emotional pain and suffering, humiliation, loss of liberty and damage to reputation,” the claim says.

It also says the city has “failed to properly train, supervise and discipline” Cain and thus has been negligent.

Cain has been with Bainbridge Police since 1986, Christopher since 2000.

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