Complaint filed against Bainbridge Island police
December 12, 2008 · Updated 4:55 PM
The trial of a Bainbridge Island man accused of assaulting police officers during a June incident has been scheduled for February.
Meanwhile, the defendant’s wife is filing a formal complaint with the Bainbridge Police Department, alleging that the arresting officers brutalized her husband without provocation.
Seth J. Chipman is charged with two counts of assault in the third degree and a charge of assault in the second degree stemming from an incident involving Bainbridge police on June 19.
At about 6 p.m., several Bainbridge Fire Department EMTs and Bainbridge police officers Stephen Cain and Trevor Ziemba responded to a 911 call from Rickie Chipman requesting medical attention for her husband outside their residence on Wild Rose Lane.
According to Rickie, Seth had been in a state of mental distress following the death of an acquaintance and had suffered a self-inflicted head wound after beating his head on the windshield of his vehicle.
Rickie, a registered nurse, said she called 911 to ask for assistance in transporting Seth to a hospital.
Accounts of what happened after the Chipmans were contacted by emergency personnel diverge sharply.
According to a statement of probable cause filed by the Bainbridge Police Department following the incident, and a press release distributed by the department on June 20, Seth Chipman acted belligerently toward the officers after their arrival.
The press release stated that Chipman was wielding a six-foot long stick when officers arrived at the scene. Chipman put down the stick before being evaluated by medical personnel.
Later, according to the probable cause statement, “Chipman grabbed a chainsaw from the trunk of a car and held it toward officers in a threatening manner.” Chipman complied with officers’ requests for him to put down the chainsaw, but then approached them in an aggressive manner, the statement said.
Officer Cain blocked Chipman with his arm, and said in the statement that he then felt Chipman tug on his firearm. The statement said Cain put Chipman in a “hair hold” and took him to the ground. Chipman was handcuffed with the assistance of Ziemba.
The statement said Cain asked Chipman why he had reached for his firearm, and Chipman said, “I was only kidding, man!”
The statement reported that Chipman kicked officer Ziemba as he was being loaded into a patrol car following his arrest. Chipman was transported to Kitsap County Jail for booking. According to the statement, Ziemba reported to Harrison Hospital, where he was diagnosed as suffering from a contusion to his chest and an edema of his left elbow.
According to his attorney, Corey Parker of Seattle, Seth Chipman remembers little from the incident. A much different view of the same event is reported in a complaint to be filed by Rickie Chipman, who witnessed the incident.
In a written statement, Rickie said that when police and aid arrived, Seth was carrying a piece of floor molding, but acted calmly toward the personnel though he was clearly disoriented from his head trauma.
According to Rickie, the police officers asked for Seth’s social security number and birthdate and performed a records check. The officers stood apart from the EMTs as Seth was interviewed, Rickie said.
According to her statement, Rickie explained the series of events that lead up to Seth’s head injury to the EMTs and mentioned that he had been cutting wood with a relative earlier that day.
At the mention of woodcutting, Rickie said Seth opened the trunk to their car and brought out the chainsaw he had used earlier as if he wanted to show it to the EMTs. He then put it down after Rickie warned him that he was acting irrationally.
According to Rickie, neither officer witnessed Seth holding the chainsaw and only approached after one of the EMTs described the incident. Rickie said she watched Cain take Seth to the ground, and watched both officers grab him by the hair and hold him face-down on the gravel.
Rickie said she was fearful that the officer’s rough treatment of her husband could exacerbate his head trauma.
After Seth was taken to the ground, Rickie said officer Cain knelt on Seth’s back. Rickie said she pleaded with Cain to show restraint, but Cain told EMTs to calm Rickie down and threatened to use his taser on Seth.
According to Rickie, she was informed that Seth would be taken to Harrison Hospital and that she should not follow the ambulance. According to both Rickie= and the statement of probable cause filed by police, Seth was taken directly to Kitsap County Jail. Rickie said she did not see her husband until 24 hours after his arrest.
Rickie said she sent her statement to Bainbridge police via certified mail Friday.
“I am making this report to ensure justice prevails, and no further harm can come to other innocent citizens of Bainbridge Island,” she wrote in conclusion to the statement.
Bainbridge Police Chief Matt Haney said he could not comment on Chipman’s complaint until it had been reviewed.
Attorney Parker said his client denies that the assaults on officers occurred. Parker said Seth has been examined by a neurologist and could seek diminished capacity as a secondary defense.
The trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 26 in Kitsap County Superior Court.