Watch video: DUI arrest leads to Meridian ID police officer punching suspect repeatedly

In a less-than-30-second video, an unidentified Meridian police officer was captured punching a suspect in the face at least a half-dozen times while the man was prone on the ground.

The video, which was posted on Twitter by a Boise-based Black Lives Matter group, showed the officer striking 31-year-old Colt James Seward as he was being detained and arrested by two Meridian police officers on Tuesday evening.

In a news release, the Meridian Police Department confirmed that Seward was arrested and said they take use-of-force incidents “very seriously” and plan to conduct a review — which police said is a typical process.

The Boise resident, whose right eye was swollen shut, appeared to have blood on his face in a mugshot posted on the Ada County Sheriff’s Office website. Seward also had several lacerations on his forehead. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment of the injuries, according to police, before being booked into the Ada County Jail.

“While the video on social media only captures part of the use of force, we are asking for the public’s patience while we conduct our internal review of this incident,” police said in the news release.

Meridian spokesperson Stephany Galbreaith told the Idaho Statesman by phone that neither of the officers involved in Seward’s DUI arrest were placed on leave or given administrative duties. Meridian Police Chief Tracy Basterrechea didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

A mugshot of 31-year-old Colt James Seward. A video posted on Twitter showed an unidentified Meridian police officer repeatedly punching Seward in the head.
A mugshot of 31-year-old Colt James Seward. A video posted on Twitter showed an unidentified Meridian police officer repeatedly punching Seward in the head.

Police: Officer struck man ‘multiple times in the face’

Police said in the news release that a member of the public contacted them Tuesday about a driver “passed out in traffic” near the intersection of North Ten Mile Road and West Ustick Road in Meridian. During a hearing Wednesday, Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Liam Stokes said police found Seward “passed out behind the wheel with the engine running. Stokes didn’t address the officer’s use of force.

Stokes said Seward was arrested for driving under the influence after he failed a sobriety test. Once Seward was in the back of a police car, Stokes alleged that Seward “slipped his handcuffs” off and then resisted arrest.

The video begins a little later after police were attempting to detain Seward a second time at a gas station across the street. The footage showed a police car parked behind a black vehicle on the road, while another police car was parked at the station, where the two officers were arresting Seward.

In the news release, Meridian police said the initial officer on the scene called for backup to help place Seward in handcuffs. When one of the officers released Seward’s right hand from the cuffs to re-handcuff him, he attempted to pull away, police said, and then struck an officer with his elbow.

The 25-second video, which was taken from someone’s car and zooms in on the officers, shows an officer holding on to Seward from behind when they roll over and land on the ground. The officer who had been entangled with him then punched Seward in the head three times and pinned his knee on Seward’s body while he was lying on the ground. The other officer helped hold the suspect down.

The officers appeared to be trying to handcuff Seward, who was on his side, according to the video. The officer on top of Seward then punched him again three times. In the news release, police said the officers forced Seward to the ground, and one of the officers “struck Seward multiple times in the face.”

Seward was arrested on several charges, including two misdemeanors for resisting or obstructing officers and assault or battery upon certain personnel, according to online court records.

Authorities said they located a .40-caliber handgun — which police said Seward was prohibited from having because of a previous conviction — in Seward’s vehicle, but Galbreaith told the Statesman that Seward did not use the firearm.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Stokes asked the judge to set Seward’s bond at $150,000 because he said the prosecutor’s office had “significant concerns” regarding community safety. The prosecutor said Seward has failed to appear for court dates, “an indicator that he will continue to abscond from court.”

Scott Brown, an Ada County public defender, asked the judge to set Seward’s bond at $50,000 and said Seward had no violent convictions. He said Seward plans to hire a private attorney.

Fourth District Magistrate Judge Regan Jameson set Seward’s bond at $75,000.

Reporter Sally Krutzig contributed.