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Tacoma City Council Member sues city alleging unlawful 2021 arrest

A Black woman wearing glasses and a black blazer raises her right hand as she takes an oath being read to her by a bald Black man wearing glasses and a grey suit jacket.
Screengrab from a recording of the Jan. 9, 2024, Tacoma City Council meeting.
Tacoma TV
Jamika Scott surrounded by friends and family as she is sworn in by local attorney James Bible as a member of the Tacoma City Council representing District 3 on Tuesday January 9, 2024 at City Hall, in Tacoma, Washington.

Newly sworn-in Tacoma City Council Member Jamika Scott has filed a lawsuit against the City of Tacoma and several Tacoma police officers stemming from her arrest by Tacoma police in January 2021. Scott claims the arrest was unlawful and is asking for a jury trial and damages.

That night, a crowd of people gathered in downtown Tacoma to watch cars do stunts. Tacoma police officers arrived to disperse the crowd, calling it an illegal street racing event. In the process of that dispersal, Tacoma Officer Kahnh Phan drove through the crowd. A video posted on social media appeared to show him hitting several people and running over at least one person.

Scott said she saw the video footage circulating on social media and went downtown to monitor the police investigation.

“[I thought] There is the potential that things could get a little out of hand. So it would probably be good if somebody who had community organizing skills and crowd skills could go down and just be there and make sure things don't get too rowdy,” Scott said.

Tacoma police body camera footage and cell phone video provided by Scott and her legal team show Scott was standing behind the marked off area when officers asked her and other bystanders to move further back. The bystanders refused. After that, Scott claims an officer smacked her cell phone out of her hand. Other officers shoved her to the ground. She claims an officer placed his knee on her back and handcuffed her. The body camera footage shows Scott surrounded by several officers, falling to the ground, and being handcuffed while she screams that an officer is on her back.

Scott was later taken and booked into jail where, the lawsuit claims, she was “forced to strip down; made to choose between wearing jail issued underwear or none at all; produce a urine sample; be fingerprinted and photographed; all while being led to believe that she would have to spend the weekend in jail.”

No charges were ever filed against Scott.

The lawsuit names the City of Tacoma as well as officers Christopher Bain, Connor Cockel, Shane Genis, Daren Holter, Christopher Munn, Brent Roberts, Douglas Walsh, Patrick Patterson, Scott Shafner, and Jeffrey Smith as defendants.

A Black woman wearing glasses holds the right side of her cardigan as she smiles and poses for a headshot.
Courtesy of Jamika Scott and attorney Beverly Allen
Jamika Scott

“It was very scary,” Scott told KNKX. “There’s the trauma of something happening to me that I’ve seen happen in the media to other people, the same thing that I’m trying to fight against, the same thing that starts off as officers saying, ‘We’re doing this because we felt threatened,’ and somebody’s life being taken unnecessarily.”

Scott said she filed the lawsuit in hopes of bringing accountability, transparency, and restorative justice practices to the city.

“This one lawsuit is not going to be the catalyst for all of that on the scale that we need, but I think that we can use this as an opportunity to have an actual conversation,” Scott said. “The best possible outcome is that the wrongdoing is acknowledged and that there are appropriate changes made to address them so that it’s not happening in the future, and if it does happen in the future, we can act accordingly.

As a new member of the city council, Scott said knows some people might question her motives or think it will cause division amongst the council. But she said that’s not her intent.

“I have begged for a path to growth that has nothing to do with the legal system. I have been ignored, and put off, and told to wait,” Scott said in a press release. “In a system with only two paths to justice, criminal and civil, I am exercising the one path available to me in hopes that it not only offers me a bit of closure from the many traumas I have suffered but that it also serves as a call to action.”

“I’m not trying to do a money grab. I’m not trying to make it harder for the city to negotiate with the police,” Scott told KNKX. “I’m hoping that they’ll see that [I] deserve justice for this and that they see my intent behind it, and I would support my council colleagues right to do the same.”

A spokesperson for the City of Tacoma said it does not comment on pending litigation.

Updated: January 24, 2024 at 5:31 PM PST
This story has been updated with details of a Huff-McKay's lawsuit and the 2021 incident.
Mayowa Aina covers cost-of-living and affordability issues in Western Washington. She focuses on how people do (or don't) make ends meet, impacts on residents' earning potential and proposed solutions for supporting people living at the margins of our community. Get in touch with her by emailing