The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has returned the case to Seattle police for further investigation before making a final determination.
King County prosecutors have tentatively declined to bring criminal charges against two Seattle police officers who fired a barrage of gunshots that injured the driver and passenger of a stolen car fleeing an Eastlake neighborhood Oct. 8.
After conducting a preliminary review of information provided by Seattle police, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office sent the case back to the department for further investigation, according to prosecutor’s spokesman Dan Donohoe.
Prosecutors will make a final determination later, Donohoe said.
The Police Department’s Force Investigation Team (FIT) will proceed with the investigation, which is standard procedure when force is used, the department said in a statement.
The driver and passenger were not seriously hurt and later were arrested and charged over the stolen vehicle.
Police said they opened fire after the driver suddenly drove toward them.
Immediately after the incident, the department launched the FIT investigation and a separate criminal investigation that produced the information submitted to prosecutors.
Officers Kenneth Martin and Tabitha Sexton fired dozens of rounds at the fleeing Subaru in an alley west of the 2200 block of Yale Avenue East. Video footage captured by officers’ body cameras and dashboard cameras was released by the department’s public-affairs office two days after the incident.
Police initially responded to a call of two people using drugs and possibly handling a gun inside a car. Several officers responded.
The video shows officers moving toward a car as an officer asks “is that them right there?” Officers then yell for one of the individuals to get on the ground, but the person ran toward the car.
The video then shows four officers running toward the car, with one of them standing in front of the car and moving out of the way as someone drives out of the parking stall and down the alley.
Martin and Sexton initially opened fire as the car pulled out. The driver briefly stopped the car twice as the officers opened fire again with numerous gunshots. The driver then turned the vehicle right and drove off.
One of the officers was firing a handgun; the other was armed with a semi-automatic patrol rifle.
At issue in the criminal investigation was whether the officers’ actions — particularly the second round of gunshots — rose to the level of unlawful conduct, according to a law-enforcement source.
Also at issue was whether they violated department policy by shooting at a fleeing vehicle, the source said.
The FIT investigation will include an examination of any policy issues, with the overall results scrutinized by the department’s Force Review Board.
The department’s Office of Police Accountability, which conducts internal investigations, is monitoring the FIT investigation and, at its conclusion, will conduct its own investigation, said interim civilian OPA Director Andrew Myerberg.
A 20-year-old man who Seattle police say is a prolific car thief and his mother were criminally charged after their fingerprints were found on the Subaru, according to court documents.
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Joshua Brooks, described by prosecutors as hitting Martin with the Subaru Impreza and striking the side of a building in his haste to escape, was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle.
Brooks, who was arrested with his mother in Everett, was wanted on a warrant in connection with two other car-theft cases after he failed to show up for court-ordered inpatient drug treatment in June, charging papers say.
His 46-year-old mother, Wendy Lee, was also wanted on a warrant out of Wenatchee for allegedly making a false statement to police, jail and court records show.
She was charged with second-degree taking a motor vehicle without permission, a Class C felony, for riding in a vehicle she knew was stolen, according to the charges.
Before they were booked into jail, Brooks and Lee were both treated at Harborview Medical Center for injuries suffered in the shooting. Brooks had two gunshot wounds to his lower back, and Lee’s lower back and legs were peppered with tiny pieces of shrapnel, the charges say.
According to the charges, the incident began when a 911 caller reported suspicious activity, saying there were at least two people in a parked car, one of them handling a pistol and the other possibly doing drugs.
Officers arrived, confirmed the vehicle had been reported stolen four days earlier, and approached a woman standing at the front of the Subaru with the hood up, the charges say. She fled out of sight along the driver’s side and a male came into view, shut the hood and then ran back out of the officers’ sight.