Seattle Police release video of man setting occupied patrol car on fire

Video shows the suspect charging at the officer with a flaming torch

By Elise Takahama
The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — A 37-year-old Seattle man has been charged with two counts of assault after allegedly swinging at another man with a hammer, then setting an occupied police vehicle on fire in South Lake Union on Thursday.

Brian Joseph Leil is being held in King County Jail on $500,000 bail, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. He was charged Friday afternoon with one count of first-degree assault against a Seattle police officer and one count of second-degree assault against a civilian.

On Thursday, witnesses told police they had seen a man, later identified as Leil, holding a hammer and yelling at another man in Denny Park, at 100 Dexter Ave. N., around 1 p.m., according to probable cause documents. Leil allegedly started swinging the hammer at the other man's head and abdomen when several people in the area intervened to stop him and grab the hammer.

Leil briefly left the park and later returned with a long stick he had set on fire, police said. Leil later told police he had wanted to use the torch to hurt the other man, whom he knew, prosecutors said. It wasn't immediately clear why the two men had gotten into an argument.

When police responded to the South Lake Union park, one officer in a patrol vehicle -- later identified as Officer Caleb Pomazon -- spotted Leil walking down a nearby alleyway with the flaming stick, police said.

In body-camera, dash-camera and surveillance footage the Seattle Police Department released Friday, Pomazon can be heard yelling at Leil to stop walking. Leil turns around, yells a profanity at the officer, then continues toward the park.

Pomazon, who's still in his vehicle, yells at Leil to stop again, the videos show, prompting Leil to turn again and start running toward the car.

Leil can be seen throwing the flaming stick through the door of the driver's seat before running away. Pomazon fires several shots at the fleeing Leil from the car, but doesn't hit him, the videos show. According to police, Pomazon became trapped in the driver's seat and had to escape the burning vehicle by climbing out the passenger's door.

Other responding officers chased Leil into a nearby parking garage, where they hit him with a stun gun and took him into custody, police said.

The patrol vehicle, which was parked in the alleyway, became engulfed in flames that spread to trees and electrical poles nearby before the Fire Department arrived, prosecutors said. The car was a total loss, with officials estimating the total damage at $70,000.

Pomazon suffered minor injuries to his leg and both hands, and was transported to Harborview Medical Center. He is currently on paid administrative leave, per the Police Department's policy when officers fire their weapons.

"The defendant confessed to all of this in an audio recorded statement, and stated that after failing in his second attack on the civilian ... his intention was then to commit a crime so serious that police killed him," prosecutors wrote in the charging documents.

Leil is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 29 at the King County Courthouse.

(c)2020 The Seattle Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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