A Thurston County Superior Court jury has acquitted a homeless man who was accused of assaulting an Olympia police officer during his arrest.
James O. Wright, 59, was found not guilty of third-degree assault June 2, more than a year after the initial arrest.
At about 3 a.m. on May 18, 2014, officers responded to a call about a man who had refused to leave King Solomon’s Reef, a diner in downtown Olympia.
According to police reports, the incident stemmed from a disagreement over whether Wright had received the correct amount of change after buying a milkshake.
Officers escorted Wright out of the business. Statements from witnesses say the officers gave Wright several chances to comply and used “minimal force” while Wright resisted arrest.
A total of four officers responded. During the struggle with officers, Sgt. Dan Smith said Wright kicked him in the “right quadriceps using a mule kick,” according to documents. One officer reported that he had heard Smith say “he kicked me” during the arrest.
“I did not receive any visible injury from the kick,” Smith wrote in his report, which noted that “my right knee was sore.”
However, the jury cleared Wright of the assault charge due to a lack of evidence or witnesses who actually saw the alleged assault take place, said defense attorney Charles Lane.
“The question was, did (Wright) assault one of the officers?” Lane told The Olympian. “He wasn’t essentially fighting them. ... He wasn’t verbally threatening them. He was just resisting.”
Following his arrest, White was released after posting $2,500 bail. He was later declared competent to stand trial based on a mental health evaluation.
Wright told The Olympian that his civil rights were violated during the arrest, and he wants to raise as much awareness as possible about his case.
“I’m not looking for anything material,” said Wright, who goes by the street name Gold. “I just want it to be known.”