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October 19, 2011 at 7:02 PM

Inquest jury: Man killed by deputies posed a threat

Eric Sampson

After more than seven days of testimony, it took jurors in a King County District Court inquest less than a half-hour to answer 23 factual questions about the fatal shooting in March of 19-year-old Eric Sampson by three King County sheriff’s deputies.

The six jurors unanimously determined that deputies Cory Stanton, C.S. Hooper  and Pete Sheridan  all believed that Sampson “posed a threat of death or serious injury” to themselves or others when they shot him in the Cumberland area of unincorporated King County.

Sampson, of Ravensdale, who was wanted on two misdemeanor warrants for traffic violations, was killed on March 19 after he fled from a Buckley police officer during a traffic stop. According to inquest testimony, Sampson then called his mother by cellphone and told her he’d “rather die” than go to jail.

He parked his car near his Ravensdale home and walked into the woods.

Deputies spotted him carrying a machete and twice attempted to knock him down with a patrol car. He struck the car with the machete and was twice tazed, according to inquest testimony. Sampson then “lunged or charged” toward a deputy before he was shot, jurors found unanimously.

Two of the six jurors answered “no” to a question about whether the deputy who tried to strike Sampson with his patrol car believed that “Sampson posed a threat of serious physical harm,” while four determined the deputy believed Sampson was a threat at that time.

Inquests are public fact-finding court proceedings in which jurors are asked to answer a series of “yes” or “no” questions intended to determine the facts involved in an officer-involved shooting death. Jurors are not asked to determine whether a shooting is justified or to evaluate whether any of the participants’ actions were right or wrong.

The King County Prosecutor’s Office will review the inquest findings.

Sampson had three arrest warrants for traffic-related offenses and was flagged on a state computer database as “potentially dangerous to officers,” the Sheriff’s Office said. Relatives said he was flagged because he told an officer who had ticketed him that he understood why people killed cops.

To read the inquest jury’s answers, click here.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Shooting inquest

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