Use of force deemed justified after Bainbridge police use taser on homeless man

A Bainbridge Island police officer was justified in using a taser on a homeless man who was found trying to camp out in a garage on Madison Avenue, according to an internal review conducted by the police department.

Bainbridge police were called to a report of a burglary in progress at a garage on Madison Avenue on the afternoon of March 16 after someone saw a man crawl through the window of a garage.

Officers entered the garage and found a covered water-ski boat on a trailer. When one officer lifted the loose canvas cover on one end of the boat, she saw a pair of hands inside and jumped down and pulled her firearm.

The officer repeatedly yelled at the person in the boat to show his hands and come out, according to a police report on the incident, but the man became belligerent and would not show his hands. Another officer also noticed a dark object in the man’s left hand, and the man kept moving his hands out of the view of the officers, as if reaching for something.

Police continued to ask the man to get out of the boat. But the man then sat down on the stern of the boat and put his hands down, despite shouts from three officers to keep them up, and began to argue with police that he had permission to be in the garage.

Officers estimated the man was told 26 times to get out of the boat, and he was tasered four times before he finally complied with the officers’ orders. The officer who fired the taser said she was concerned for her safety, and the man posed an immediate threat to officers.

After one taser attempt, the man — who was described as 6-foot-4 and 175 pounds — took the taser prongs out and stayed in the boat.

Police later learned the man was homeless and had been sleeping on-and-off in the boat for roughly a year.

A search of the boat found bedding, clothing and the man’s other possessions, which included a backpack with needles and other drug paraphernalia. The transient was arrested and booked into Kitsap County Jail for burglary and resisting arrest.

Bainbridge police conducted a review of the use of the taser in the days following the incident, according to documents obtained under a public records request by the Review.

Two lieutenants — the officer’s immediate supervisor and the training supervisor — found the use of the taser acceptable, and consistent with the police department’s training and policy on the use of force.

Chief Matthew Hamner said this week he approved the use of force in the incident.

Hamner has been chief for 11 months, and the incident marked the first time a taser has been used by Bainbridge police during his tenure.

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