The Seattle Police Department’s Force Review Board found the shooting was reasonable, necessary and proportional under department policy.
After a lengthy investigation, a Seattle Police Department review board has found that the Feb. 21 fatal shooting of Che Taylor by two officers fell within department policy.
The finding was reached after a daylong review and discussion of the investigation by the department’s Force Review Board (FRB) on May 12, Rebecca Boatright, senior legal counsel for the Seattle Police Department, said Tuesday.
A final written report detailing the finding is nearing completion, Boatright said.
The board, overseen by an assistant chief, found the shooting was reasonable, necessary and proportional under department policy, Boatright said.
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In the highly publicized incident, Taylor, a 46-year-old African-American man, was shot when the two white officers sought to arrest him as a felon allegedly in possession of a prohibited firearm.
Taylor’s brother, Andrè Taylor, who has been representing the family and has called the shooting unjustified, said Tuesday the finding was expected.
“We’re not shocked about it,” he said, pledging to continue his efforts to repeal portions of a state law that makes it difficult to prosecute police officers over the use of deadly force.
Taylor was shot at close range during a confrontation in North Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood which was captured on a patrol-car video. The two officers who fired the shots told investigators they feared for their lives when they saw Taylor reach toward what they believed was a handgun in a holster, according to their statements.
The two officers, Michael Spaulding and Scott Miller, in recorded statements, said that shortly before the confrontation, they saw Taylor carrying the handgun in the holster while they were conducting surveillance on a suspected narcotics dealer.
Spaulding and Miller said they recognized Taylor, who had arrived at the scene, as a violent felon who had served prison time.
Taylor was subject to immediate arrest for being a felon in possession of the gun, according to their statements. The officers moved to arrest Taylor after he exited a parked car occupied by a woman and a man.
As seen in the video, Taylor was shot as he stood by the open passenger door, facing it, and moved downward as the officers approached giving commands to Taylor to get down and put his hands up.
Detectives with a warrant later recovered a loaded pistol from the floorboard of the car after it was impounded, according to police.
The gun was found underneath the right front corner of the right front seat next to a pair of eyeglasses, according to a force-investigation report. It was lying on its left side, with the barrel pointed toward the front of the car, the report says.
The front portion of the barrel was visible below the right front seat adjustment bar, with the barrel’s front edge up against the rear edge of the right front floor mat, according to the report.
A firefighter told police that he had to cut a belt with an empty holster on it off Taylor to provide medical treatment to him, according to police.
The shooting was investigated by the Police Department’s Force Investigation Team (FIT), which was created as part of federally mandated, court-ordered reforms to address excessive use of force found by the U.S. Justice Department.
The Force Review Board, also a creation of the reforms required under a 2012 agreement, then reviewed the investigation results, hearing presentations from FIT and crime-scene investigators. The FRB analyzes officer-involved shootings and other uses of force.
The board is headed by Assistant Chief Lesley Cordner, who commands the Compliance and Professional Standards Bureau.
Members include a force-review captain, a representative from the Training Section, three representatives from the Patrol Operations Bureau, a representative from the Audit, Policy & Research Section and a representative from the Investigations Bureau.
Observers, who do not vote, may include representatives of the Justice Department; the court-appointed monitoring team overseeing police reforms; the civilian director of the Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability; and a civilian and union representative in cases of shootings by officers.
A separate, Sept. 19 court inquest has been set into the shooting of Taylor.
The goal of an inquest is to determine the causes and circumstances surrounding a death, during a court proceeding conducted before a six-member jury. It is customary for deaths that involve on-duty law-enforcement officers in King County.
Inquest jurors answer a series of interrogatories to determine factual issues involved in the case; they do not determine civil or criminal liability.
Taylor’s family and supporters have questioned the police version of events.