The deputies, accompanied by a K-9 officer from the Tacoma Police Department, were looking for an armed suspect in a car break-in when they came upon Aaron Otto Hansen, 34, of Roy, early on July 10, 2004.
Hansen, who did not commit the crime, was passed out drunk in a sleeping bag outside a relative's home in the Tacoma suburb of Lakewood, one of his lawyers said. The "Cops" video footage of his arrest, obtained by The Associated Press, seems to support that claim:
"Wake up! Show me your hands!" one officer, identified in the lawsuit as Deputy Joseph Kolp, screams at Hansen on the video.
"You're gonna get tased, dude," Kolp says.
Kolp pulls on the sleeping bag. Hansen - clearly disoriented - tries to pull it back over his head, apparently to shield his eyes from Deputy Russell Martin's flashlight. Kolp grabs Hansen's arm and Martin moves in to help with an arrest.
Hansen, still on the ground, starts to revive. He pushes Kolp, and the officers repeatedly use their Tasers as they kneel on him, pressing the instruments into his chest and his buttocks.
"What the (expletive) are you doing?!" he moans as he struggles against them. "What the hell's going on?!"
With Martin and Kolp holding him down, Hansen continued to swing his legs, and Kolp called for help from Tacoma police K-9 officer Christopher Karl. Karl's dog bit repeatedly at Hansen's leg, leaving his pants shredded and his ankle bloodied.
The confrontation ended after two minutes, with Hansen in handcuffs moaning, "Please, please ... What did I do wrong?"
"When we tell you to show us your hands, that's what you need to do," Kolp tells him. "You want to fight us, this is what happens."
"I'm not fighting nobody here," Hansen says, doubled over in pain.
Later that night, the officers arrested another man, John Joyal, in the car break-in. Joyal wound up pleading guilty to a lesser crime.
Hansen was never charged in the break-in, but he was charged with two counts of third-degree assault for resisting the officers. Those charges were dropped on Aug. 25, the day Hansen was to be tried - the same day his lawyer first viewed the videotape.
His lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, names Pierce County, Kolp, Martin, Karl, the city of Lakewood and the city of Tacoma.
At the time of the arrest, Kolp and Martin patrolled Lakewood for the sheriff's office. Since then, Lakewood has formed its own police department, which is where Kolp and Martin now work. The sheriff's office, the Lakewood Police Department and the Tacoma Police Department all declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday.
On the video, Kolp explains the officers' actions:
"He was hiding in what looked like a sleeping bag, and he wouldn't comply with our commands," Kolp says. "I went through the fence, tried to pull the blanket back, and the fight was on. He resisted from the get-go ... ended up kicking us, the whole nine yards.
"The dog was sent in to help us out because we had two officers struggling to get this guy into custody and he wasn't complying, so we had to take it up a notch. ... It was a full-on battle there for a couple minutes."
One of Hansen's lawyers, Philip Bolland, didn't buy that explanation.
"The guy was asleep. They could have handcuffed him while he was asleep," Bolland said. "I can't think of any context where this treatment could be considered appropriate. Anybody who sits down and watches that tape would want an explanation."
A producer at Santa Monica, Calif.-based Langley Productions Inc., which created "Cops," said he could not confirm whether the episode ever aired, but Lakewood Police Lt. Bret Farrar said he had seen it on television. He declined to comment on the arrest.
The lawsuit seeks damages as well as an injunction prohibiting the police agencies from associating with "Cops" or similar TV programs again.