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Nov. 29, 2020

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Plea deal reached in case of Everett cop pinning Black man

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

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

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.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman said the officer in Hill’s case applied pressure to the shoulders and not directly to the neck and only for 14 seconds.

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.” Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman determined the sergeant acted within the updated policy.

Hill pleaded guilty to resisting arrest this week and charges of assault and criminal trespassing were dropped. Everett Municipal Court Judge Amy Kaestner sentenced Hill to 30 days in jail.

A neighbor reported a possible assault with a knife on May 24 and a woman identified Hill as the attacker. Officers found Hill on a nearby roof, saying he didn’t want to go to jail. Officers surrounded him, then chased him when he ran. Hill surrendered and dropped until the sergeant caught up to him and pinned him.

In custody, Hill told officers the woman attacked him and that he defended himself and ran. The woman had an injury to her face. She told police Hill did not use a knife, nor threaten her with a weapon. She declined to cooperate with police and 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 took the plea deal 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.

The allegations that Hill had a weapon on him even though he did not 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.

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