A 35-year-old Seattle police SWAT officer has been placed on administrative leave while the department and the King County Sheriff’s Office investigate his decision to shoot a man suspected of taking his infant daughter from her mother at gunpoint in a park April 29.
Officer Noah Zech was one of several officers in foot pursuit of the man about a half-hour after the initial report of the abduction. The man was shot by Zech, who was armed with a .223-caliber rifle. The man was critically wounded.
A clip of video of the shooting taken from a body camera worn by an officer following Zech, and an audio clip of the mother’s frantic 911 call to police, were released by the Seattle Police Department on Friday evening. Zech has been with the department for 15 years, the SPD said.
The department said the shooting is being investigated by its own Force Investigation Team in compliance with an ongoing 2012 consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. The incident is also being investigated by the King County Sheriff’s Office in keeping with the provisions of Initiative 940, a voter initiative amended by the Legislature last year that overhauled the state’s police use-of-force statutes.
The video shows several officers chasing the man through a small parking lot and down the side of a building, where they confront him. The man was holding the child when he was shot, and another officer runs up and picks the child up. Police said the infant was not injured.
The department said a handgun was found “nearby.” Police released no other details Saturday.
The shooting victim was taken to Harborview Medical Center with life-threatening injuries. A hospital spokeswoman Saturday could not provide an update on the man’s condition.
Police initially responded to Rainier Playfield in Columbia City on Wednesday afternoon at 2:15 p.m. after the 911 call. The woman said a man had been shooting at her there and had fled with their 1-year-old daughter, according to a statement issued by the Seattle Police Department.
The call came after the man assaulted the woman in the family home in Des Moines, police Chief of Investigations Deanna Nollette said Wednesday, then forced her into a car and drove her to a hotel in South Seattle, where he continued beating her.
The man forced the woman back into the vehicle and drove to Columbia City, where he fired two shots at her, once in the vehicle and once at Rainier Playfield, Nollette said.
In the recording released Friday, the woman can be heard telling a 911 operator that she ran from the man, whom she describes as the father of her child, after he beat her and fired a gun in a nearby park.
“You’ve gotta help me … I don’t know where he went. He has my baby,” the woman says. “Please help.”
Officers confronted the man in nearby Mount Baker, according to police.
Police spokesman Patrick Michaud confirmed Friday night that the suspect was holding the baby when he was shot.
The Seattle Police Officers Guild posted a statement Friday night in support of the officers’ actions and urging the public to “reserve judgment” until the investigations are complete.
“The officers on scene had a split-second to react to a deadly situation that threatened the life of an innocent child,” the statement said. “We are proud of the heroism displayed by our officers who risked their lives to capture an armed felony domestic violence assault suspect.”