Two Seattle police officers acted within policy and reasonably when they fatally shot a man in May while responding to a domestic-violence call at a lower Queen Anne apartment, the department’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) found in a recently released report.
The OPA released another report Tuesday, however, that found a Seattle police officer failed to thoroughly investigate a domestic violence call that came from the same apartment three weeks before the shooting.
Ryan Matthew Smith, 31, died of multiple gunshot wounds on May 8, 2019. Officers had responded to a 911 call from a woman who reported her boyfriend had a knife and was threatening to kill her, according to police.
After the officers broke down the apartment door, Smith moved toward them with a knife and they fired, according to the OPA report and previously released body-camera footage.
In a complaint, Smith’s mother alleged that the officers improperly used deadly force, failed to deescalate the confrontation, made biased decisions because her son was Black and failed to provide timely medical care.
The OPA said it found no evidence to support the claims, noting that the officers feared for their lives in a confined space and were concerned for the safety of the woman, who had barricaded herself in a bathroom.
Police made reasonable decisions on medical care, based on the circumstances and the grave nature of Smith’s wounds, the report said.
In the OPA’s Tuesday report, the agency found that an SPD officer who responded to the domestic-violence call weeks before the shooting violated department policy and received a written reprimand. The reports did not directly address whether that officer was also at the scene of the later shooting.
According to Tuesday’s report, the same woman had called 911 in tears, telling the operator that her boyfriend was being abusive and was possibly armed.
When police arrived, the primary officer asked the woman what the OPA later described as “vague and leading questions,” including, “So, ultimately, just kinda what I’m getting is that it was just an argument and you’re getting kind of tired of him?”
According to the report, the officer also later said, “So the threats that he made … you don’t believe they’re necessarily true, just something he consistently says.”
After talking to police, the woman collected some of her belongings and left the apartment, the report said. Smith wasn’t arrested at the time.
“(The officer) cannot be held responsible for the subject’s behavior and it would be speculative for OPA to conclude that, had (he) conducted a better DV investigation, that later incident may have been avoided,” the report concludes. “However, this does show how important it is to conduct thorough and comprehensive DV investigations and to properly document such incidents.”