They buried James Monroe the other day. Some 300 people packed into a little church in South Seattle to say goodbye. This might surprise some...

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They buried James Monroe the other day.

Some 300 people packed into a little church in South Seattle to say goodbye. This might surprise some, for there are reasons not to care about Monroe, starting with a rap sheet that spans 32 arrests. It is a chronicle of poor judgment and a healthy bravado. He was a drug dealer; he went where he didn’t belong.

Yet, there are reasons we should all care about Monroe — starting with how he died.

On July 23, two Kent police officers shot Monroe at least 14 times, according to his family, then used a Taser on him.

I can’t imagine what would justify putting that much lead into a person, unless the person was armed and advancing fast.

But apparently that didn’t happen here.

According to police, two officers had pulled over a stolen car in which Monroe was a passenger. As the driver was questioned, then arrested, Monroe slid into the driver’s seat and took off. As the car hit the patio enclosure of a motel, police said, the officers opened fire.

But the facts are slow in coming.

It’s possible that Monroe’s criminal history made him panic and hit the gas.

But what would make the police shoot and shoot?

“I was immediately skeptical,” James’ father, Richard Monroe, said Tuesday. “James gets in a lot of trouble, but it’s not that kind of trouble.”

On the day after his son’s funeral, Monroe was at work in his construction office. Keeping busy kept his mind off the questions for which the answers will be a long time coming — even longer when you’re missing your son and there’s a 5-year-old girl without a father.

“The medical examiner said, ‘Mr. Monroe, I stopped counting at 14 [shots],’ ” he told me.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office would only confirm that Monroe suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen.

James Monroe’s stepmother, Patty, said “We are not trying to blast the authorities. But we do want to know how and why a deadly shooting took place.”

Police would only say the shooting is being investigated by the Renton Police Department. That could take eight months, and then it will be even longer for the King County Prosecutor’s Office to review those findings. So the Monroes wait — and so do we. Whatever was done out there was done in the name of safety. But whose?

None of James’ previous arrests were for violent offenses. He sold drugs, yes, his father said, but didn’t use them. He was a good father to his daughter, Moshea, and was working on a rap CD as “Fetty Macc.”

All will be part of his legacy.

But so will this, Patty Monroe told me: “African-American boys must be taught that, if they’re ever pulled over, not to reach for their cellphone even if it’s their varsity basketball coach calling. Do not scratch their nose if it itches, do not reach for their wallet for ID. Make [the police] take it out.

“We teach our children these things,” she said. “We are scared for our sons.”

I’m scared for my son, too. Would James Monroe have tried to sell drugs to my 12-year-old? I can’t say. Maybe.

But did he deserve to be shot 14 times? I can say: no.

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or

She’ll be waiting, too.