In newly released statements, the two Seattle police officers who fatally shot Che Taylor during a Feb. 21 confrontation told investigators they saw Taylor reach for a handgun.
The two Seattle police officers who fatally shot Che Taylor on Feb. 21 told investigators they feared for their lives when they saw him reach toward what they believe was a handgun in a holster, according to newly released records.
The two officers, Michael Spaulding and Scott Miller, in recorded statements, said that shortly before the confrontation, they had seen Taylor carrying the handgun in the holster while they were conducting surveillance on the North Seattle home of another man, a suspected narcotics dealer.
Transcripts of the statements were released to The Seattle Times Monday by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office under a public-disclosure request. The statements are part of the investigative file compiled by the Seattle police Force Investigation Team, which submitted the material to the prosecutor’s office, setting the stage for a court inquest into the highly publicized incident.
Taylor’s family and supporters have alleged the African-American man’s shooting was unjustified, while asserting evidence could have been planted to support the police version of events.
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Taylor’s brother, Andrè Taylor, 47, said Monday he was not shocked by the statements because police are “taught what to say.”
The officers’ statements are inconsistent with patrol-car video of the incident showing his brother raising his hands, Taylor said.
“I’m going to continue to fight,” he said of his efforts to hold police accountable.
The officers’ statements provide the most detailed accounts of the shooting, beyond the recollections of a woman who told police Che Taylor appeared to pull a gun before he was shot by police.
In their statements, Spaulding and Miller said they recognized Taylor, who had arrived at the scene, as a violent felon who had served prison time.
They also said Taylor was listed by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) as an armed career criminal who, if found to be in possession of a firearm, should be reported to the ATF.
Taylor, 46, also was subject to immediate arrest for being a felon in possession of the gun, according to the officers’ statements.
The officers said they decided to arrest Taylor after he exited a parked car occupied by the woman and a man. Taylor was shot at close range as he stood by the car.
Working as anti-crime team officers in plainclothes, both officers put on outer garments with bold lettering saying “POLICE” and “SEATTLE POLICE” as they confronted Taylor in the Wedgwood neighborhood, according to other police records released Monday.
Spaulding said he and Miller didn’t want Taylor to be able to shoot at a marked police vehicle that was approaching, take the two people in the car as hostages, or get back in the car and drive away.
“We identified ourselves … ,” Spaulding said, calling Taylor by name while he and Miller demanded Taylor show his hands and repeatedly told him to get on the ground.
Taylor “could have just simply dropped to his knees,” but he turned to his right, Spaulding said.
Spaulding said he saw Taylor’s right hand go to his waist and his elbow come up.
“And I knew right there that he was drawing for the handgun,” Spaulding told investigators. “I didn’t see the handgun, but just that motion of it, I knew the gun was on his right hip, his hand went to right to his right hip.”
“I could tell, uh, that something stopped his hand from going down any further. And then he pulled, I could see his elbow going straight up to where he was unholstering something,” Spaulding added.
Spaulding said he was afraid for his life, Miller’s life and “everybody else’s life” because he believed Taylor wasn’t willing to return to prison.
“So I started shooting,” said Spaulding, who, according to the other police records, fired six times with his department-issued rifle.
Miller fired his department-issued shotgun one time, the records show.
In his statement, Miller provided the same account, describing Taylor’s movement of his right arm toward the weapon as a “telltale sign” of drawing his handgun.
“I feared for my life,” Miller said. “The safety of myself and my partner, absolutely.”
Detectives recovered a handgun from the floorboard of the car, according to police.
Substances found on Taylor at Harborview Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, tested positive for heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, according to the records.
Miller and Spaulding told investigators Taylor was known to them before the incident.
Miller said the officers ”know Che Taylor from just our day to day work on Aurora uh, we do research on him …” He described Taylor as a “main player” involved in drug trafficking and prostitution on Aurora Avenue North.
Taylor had not been arrested for that alleged activity at the time of his death.
Andrè Taylor said police should have arrested his brother if they had evidence and allowed him a jury trial, but were trying to suggest his brother deserved to die.
“It’s called deflecting,” he said.
Che Taylor was released from state prison in October 2014 and placed on supervision after serving time since 1992.
His convictions included first-degree rape, first-degree robbery, a drug offense, unlawful possession of a firearm, second-degree assault and taking a motor vehicle without permission.
Spaulding believed using the rifle and shotgun was appropriate during the Feb. 21 incident because of Taylor’s violent criminal history and his possession of a firearm at the scene, according to the records.
Under standard procedures, Spaulding and Miller have been reassigned to non-patrol duties while the matter remains under review.