A police accountability group has filed a complaint against the King County Sheriff’s Office after a deputy used a Taser on a woman who was running naked through Pioneer Square last week.
At a news conference at City Hall on Wednesday, Members of Mothers for Police Accountability, which filed the complaint, questioned whether the woman, who was black, should have been Tased. They asked why alternate methods to subdue the agitated woman were not used.
The Rev. Harriett Walden, speaking for the group, said that the woman’s “blackness” was viewed as a weapon and that a female deputy and a crisis-response team should have been called to help.
“How could you Tase a woman who is already in distress?” she said while sitting with seven other women in the lobby of City Hall.
The group said they were made aware of the incident by a witness who had video. Walden declined to share the video.
Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ryan Abbott said the deputy tried to calm and contain the woman for about 15 minutes before he used the Taser. He said the situation, which happened on the afternoon of May 15, evolved rapidly and there wasn’t time to call in a female deputy or a crisis-response team because the woman had become a danger to herself and others.
According to a sheriff’s report on the incident, sheriff’s Major Bryan Howard wrote that he was walking through Pioneer Square, near South Main Street and Fourth Avenue South, when he saw a woman wearing only socks running toward him and a man holding clothes following her. Howard, who was in uniform, told the woman to stop and offered to help her, the report says.
Howard wrote that she had a glazed look and was speaking fast and using unrecognizable words. The man who was following the woman told Howard he was her brother and that she was schizophrenic, not on medication and high on some kind of drug.
The man kept trying to dress the woman, but she continued to dart into traffic, Howard’s report says. She punched the window of at least one passing car and appeared to be aggressively “shadow boxing” with passers-by. Howard continued to follow her, saying that he could help her and that she wasn’t under arrest, according to his report.
After she escaped from the man’s grasp a couple more times, she continued to dart back and forth between the sidewalk and the street for several more blocks. About 10 minutes later, another deputy arrived and Howard pulled out his Taser and warned the woman he would use it if she didn’t stop, he wrote. After she ran into traffic at Second Avenue South and South Washington Street, Howard used a Taser on her and subdued her.
The woman continued to struggle after she was handcuffed and placed on a stretcher, he wrote. A social worker showed up and draped a blanket around her. A Seattle police officer who arrived at the scene had the woman involuntary committed to Harborview Medical Center for an evaluation.
Dawn Mason, a former state representative and a member of Mothers For Police Accountability, said at the news conference that it is unacceptable that this happened in Seattle.
“We have a white, liberal, Democratic, progressive city and look what’s going on. We can’t blame this on No. 45 and his ‘make America great again’ people,” she said in reference to President Donald Trump.
Abbott said that everyone in the sheriff’s office receives crisis training and that the use of a Taser is sometimes necessary. He acknowledged the Sheriff’s Office was aware of the group’s complaint and said it was being investigated.
“It is a use-of-force option we have available to us if we aren’t able to detain somebody for their own safety,” he said.
The woman was not charged with a crime. It wasn’t immediately clear if she was still in Harborview.