PORT ANGELES — The city of Port Townsend — answering a federal lawsuit filed in December — denies any fault in a 2014 incident involving police that left a former journalist with a broken wrist and a bloodied nose.
Stephen Patch is suing Officer Patrick Fudally, the Port Townsend Police Department and the city of Port Townsend for negligence, negligent supervision and training, and for deprivation of rights.
“Defendants admit Officer Fudally was acting under color of law, but deny he assaulted [Patch],” the city said in court papers. “Defendants deny [Patch] is entitled to any damages whatsoever in this action.”
The city and Patch have been ordered to submit a joint status report and discovery plan by Monday, March 12. The city has demanded a jury trial.
City Attorney Steve Gross said in an email Monday, “the city’s policy is not to comment on litigation.”
Patch, who was previously a journalist for the Mason County Journal, Tri-City Herald and, most recently, the Port Townsend Leader, had moved into a Port Townsend apartment in 2012 with his son, who was physically disabled by tetraplegia and suffered from emotional disabilities, according to the lawsuit.
Between 2012 and 2014, Patch would call police for help when his son’s behavior became belligerent and unmanageable, the lawsuit says.
On Dec. 2, 2014, police responded to a report of possible assault at the home. As officers were preparing to enter the home, Patch punched a wall out of frustration, according to the lawsuit.
Fudally wrote in his report that he felt Patch needed to be handcuffed before he attacked someone. Officers wrote in reports that Patch had clenched fists after he punched the wall, a point Patch disputes in his lawsuit.
After he punched the wall, Fudally took Patch to the ground in a matter of seconds. He wrote in his report he heard a crack.
“Once he had broken [Patch’s] wrist and smashed his face into the concrete, Officer Fudally, still lying on top of the injured man, used one hand to grab [Patch] by the head and force [his] face into the concrete walkway and into the pool of [Patch’s] blood,” the lawsuit alleges.
Police never developed probable cause that an assault had happened, according to police reports. Police recommended Patch be charged with obstructing a law enforcement officer, but city Prosecuting Attorney Johanna Vanderlee declined to charge him.
On Oct. 5, 2015, Patch’s attorney, Chalmers Johnson, sent a letter to the city requesting a $250,000 settlement, which he said was a small amount compared to other amounts awarded in similar cases.
Patch was treated for a wrist fracture in the weeks following the incident, according to the letter. During that time he accumulated about $60,000 in medical expenses.
The Washington Cities Insurance Authority sent Patch’s attorney a letter denying the request, saying “the city is not responsible for your client’s injuries and … the responding officers acted reasonably and professionally.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].