Family members and friends of Giovonn Joseph-McDade gathered outside the Kent Police Department on Thursday, demanding answers about the 20-year-old’s fatal shooting by an officer last month.
Sonia Joseph was only able to read aloud the first two paragraphs of a prepared statement about her son’s fatal shooting by Kent police before her voice broke and she had to ask a relative to take over.
The grieving mother, surrounded by about 50 people in the courtyard outside the Kent Police Department, spoke publicly for the first time Thursday about the June 24 death of her son, 20-year-old Giovonn Joseph-McDade.
“Our family and friends are all in disbelief and mourning this tremendous loss,” Joseph read from the statement. “Giovonn was bright from a very early age, he was in gifted classes since the third grade, he was an all-star athlete throughout his entire life, and overall he always strived to be the best version of himself.”
She said her family wants answers and questioned how her son, who dreamed of attending the University of Washington and earning a business degree, could die in a Kent cul-de-sac after a police pursuit that lasted less than two minutes.
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The family did not answer questions from the media, nor did they address Joseph-McDade’s alleged actions leading up to the shooting.
Kent police Chief Ken Thomas, along with officers and members of his command staff, stood on the edges of the public gathering, where participants bore signs and wore sweatshirts printed with photographs of Joseph-McDade.
“We’re here to listen right now,” said Thomas, who later met privately with Sonia Joseph and other family members.
Thomas said the Valley Investigative Team is continuing its investigation into the fatal shooting. The Des Moines Police Department is the investigation’s lead agency, while Renton police and an outside expert are working on reconstructing the collision between Joseph-McDade’s vehicle and two Kent patrol cars, a process that can take months.
Investigators are also awaiting the results of toxicology tests from the State Patrol Crime Lab, Thomas said.
Des Moines police have previously released a police-radio transmission and a video from a private residence that shows part of the incident that police say began when Joseph-McDade failed to pull over for a traffic stop in the 25400 block of 104th Avenue Southeast around 12:15 a.m. on June 24. Police say he then led officers on a mile-long pursuit that hit speeds of at least 60 mph and lasted less than two minutes.
Police say Joseph-McDade ended up in a residential cul-de-sac, at 99th Avenue South and South 244th Street, where his vehicle was briefly stopped by an officer who performed a pursuit-intervention technique, or PIT, which entails bumping the rear fender to force the vehicle into a spin.
But the video shows Joseph-McDade’s car speeding off, and Des Moines police say he crashed into two patrol officers and was driving toward an officer when the officer fired twice. Joseph-McDade’s vehicle failed to make a curve, struck a curb and came to a stop in Canterbury Park.
He died at the scene.
Police found close to 5 grams of methamphetamine in Joseph-McDade’s wallet and when officers searched his vehicle, they found nearly 70 grams of marijuana and a “suspicious liquid” that has since been sent to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab for testing, according to Des Moines police.
On Thursday, Joseph-McDade’s loved ones outlined a list of demands, including the release of the names of the two involved officers, a 42-year-old veteran who shot and killed Joseph-McDade and a 26-year-old officer who was also involved in the pursuit.
They also called for the shooting investigation to be turned over to the King County Sheriff’s Office and for an independent, community-led investigation into Joseph-McDade’s death; the installation of dashboard cameras in all Kent police vehicles; information about Kent police’s policies on PIT maneuvers; and that all officers in the department complete cultural competency and in-depth de-escalation training.
Police did not respond to the demands during the news conference.
Joseph-McDade was among four people killed by police in King County during a two-week period in June.