A King County District Court inquest jury has found that three Seattle police officers who fatally shot a 21-year-old man in February had reason to believe the man posed an ‘imminent risk’ when they opened fire.
According to information presented at the inquest, police were called to the North Seattle home that Jack Sun Keewatinawin shared with his father on Feb. 26.
Keewatinawin, who had a history of mental health issues , was angry and ranting when he called his two older brothers, police said after the shooting. The brothers were fearful for Keewatinawin and their father when they separately called 911 and told dispatchers their brother was mentally ill and off his medications, according to police records. They also said they feared their father was being held hostage, according to recordings of their 911 calls.
Dispatchers also told responding officers that Keewatinawin was wanted on an outstanding state Department of Corrections warrant that included a caution about the potential for violent behavior, according to juror findings.
From information presented at the inquest, the seven jurors unanimously determined that Keewatinawin was on the front porch and behaving irrationally when police arrived. He walked toward officers with his hand in his pockets and ignored commands to get on the ground, the jurors found. An attempt to use a Taser device to control him failed and he fled, the jurors determined.
Officer Michael Spaulding slipped while chasing Keewatinawin and fell, police said. He and the two other officers who fired their weapons, Stephen Sperry and Tyler Speer, said they saw Keewatinawin then turn toward Spaulding, pull a piece of metal rebar from his clothing and raise his arms “in a threatening manner.”
All seven jurors said the officers had reason to believe Keewatinawin posed an imminent risk to Spaulding when they fired.
In King County, inquests are routinely called to provide a public record of the circumstances surrounding officer-involved shootings. Jurors are not asked to determine guilt or innocence but instead are asked a series of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions about the information presented.