A King County sheriff’s deputy has been fired for putting pepper spray in a homeless man’s water bottle as a way to ensure he didn’t return to an encampment.
Derek DeZiel was let go following an internal investigation launched when a fellow deputy filed a complaint after the November incident in Fall City. He left the department Friday (May 5).
In the termination letter, Sheriff John Urquhart wrote, “I find it an attack on the most vulnerable and powerless segment of society by the most powerful segment of society ... a police officer,” according to KIRO.
DeZiel allegedly admitted putting pepper spray in the bottle because he wanted to send a message to the homeless man that he wasn’t welcome to live beneath the bridge.
“I put a little squirt of pepper spray on the end of the water bottle to deter him from coming back,” DeZiel told investigators. “He’s going to touch it. He’s going to understand that he’s no longer welcome here, and he won’t be under the bridges anymore.”
He denied trying to hurt the homeless man and said it was a tactic he learned as a junior deputy, though he declined to name who taught him how to do it.
When investigators asked DeZiel if he thought spraying pepper spray on the man’s belongings was the right thing to do, the deputy answered, “I did not have a problem with it, no.”
When DeZiel discovered another deputy had complained about him, he allegedly called the deputy and confronted him.
He explained to investigators that he expected somebody to come to him directly if they had a problem with him. Urquhart said in the termination letter that kind of thinking reinforces the public perception that law enforcement officers protect each other rather than report wrongdoing.
DeZiel’s disciplinary record prior to the pepper spray incident included kicking in the door of someone’s house because of a parking violations, illegally entering a property, watching television while driving, commenting that a female co-worker was doing a man’s job, having no probable cause to enter a house and not following up on a robbery report, records show.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653