“I don’t know whether the gun was pointed at the deputies or not. I’m waiting for their statements,” Sheriff John Urquhart said Monday.
The King County sheriff’s deputies who shot and killed a reportedly suicidal pregnant mother Friday near the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation are expected to provide their version of the incident by Tuesday, Sheriff John Urquhart said.
By law and contract, the sheriff could have compelled the two deputies to give their statements earlier, but Urquhart said that could have possibly jeopardized the department’s investigation into the shooting. Information in such compelled statements could not be used in any criminal or internal investigation.
Otherwise, the contract provides that the deputies have 72 hours to provide their version of the events, said Sgt. Cindi West, the department spokesman.
Preliminary information from the scene and interviews with witnesses indicate the woman, identified by family as 23-year-old Renee Davis, had texted her boyfriend Friday and said she had a gun and wanted to kill herself. Family members said the woman was depressed and was five months pregnant.
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Her boyfriend, Urquhart said, contacted the deputy contracted to patrol Muckleshoot tribal lands and relayed the message, and the deputy went to the woman’s house to check on her welfare around 6:30 p.m., the sheriff said.
Urquhart said the sheriff’s office has collected the cellphones and texts as evidence and confirmed the text exchange. Investigators have not interviewed the boyfriend yet because he has been too distraught, Urquhart said.
The sheriff said the deputy knocked on the door, but there was no response. Peering through a window, Urquhart said the deputy saw two toddlers in the home but could not see the woman. Davis was the mother of three children ages 5, 3 and 2. The oldest child was at a friend’s house when the shooting occurred.
“At that point, we couldn’t just walk away. We didn’t know if those children were in danger,” he said.
The deputy and a backup officer entered the home through the front door and confronted the woman in a rear bedroom, where shots were fired. Urquhart said both deputies fired their service weapons.
Concerns over the safety of the children and Davis provided the deputies with justification to enter the home without a warrant, the sheriff said.
“I don’t know whether the gun was pointed at the deputies or not. I’m waiting for their statements,” he said.
Both deputies — one an eight-year veteran, the other with three years on the job — have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. Urquhart said neither man knew the woman was pregnant at the time.
“This has been difficult,” he said.
The shooting investigation is being conducted by the department’s Major Crimes Unit. Their work will be forwarded to the King County Prosecutor’s Office for a determination on whether criminal charges are warranted.
In the meantime, the department will conduct a review to determine whether any sheriff’s office policies were violated or whether the shooting exposed deficiencies in policy or training.
Urquhart said there will also be a coroner’s inquest and a formal shooting review board, whose findings will be forwarded to the FBI for review. Urquhart said the director of King County’s Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, which conducts internal affairs investigations, responded to the shooting scene Friday night.
Urquhart said that the sheriff’s office now requires that all deputies carry Tasers, a less-lethal option to a firearm, but that neither deputy used the devices “nor would it have been appropriate in this situation,” with an individual armed with a gun.
The sheriff said both deputies had crisis-intervention training as well.
Both of those issues were raised in a critical 2012 review of the sheriff’s office use-of-force and shooting-review policies conducted by Los Angeles-based Police Assessment Resource Center, which found the office lacking in both of those areas at the time.
Urquhart said he has only partially addressed another issue raised in the resource center report: the practice of providing officers with up to three days to provide a written version of the incident to the department.
The report found that the 72-hour delay allowed deputies to reconstruct events, rather than “purely recollecting” them.
Statements should no longer be in writing and be immediately taken by a commanding officer who can ask “insightful questions,” the report said. In a review of 15 shootings in which 11 people were hit and eight died, statements from deputies were “often truncated and self-serving,” it says.
Under federal law, the department could compel the deputies to give a statement, but that information could not be used in criminal or internal investigations. In this case, Urquhart said, he wanted to allow the investigation to be completed before getting the deputies’ version of events.