The city of Seattle has agreed to pay $515,000 to settle a civil-rights lawsuit filed by the estate of Iosia Faletogo, who was shot and killed by police after a foot chase across Aurora Avenue North on New Year’s Eve 2018.
Faletogo’s last words, caught on police body cameras — “Nope, not reaching!” — became a rallying cry for protesters against police racism and violence in the weeks after the killing.
The department’s civilian-run Office of Police Accountability found the officers’ actions justified. Graphic body-camera video appeared to show Faletogo had dropped a handgun in a struggle with officers and was unarmed just before the fatal shot was fired.
The settlement approved Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Rothstein would divide the bulk of the money between the estate’s attorneys and Faletogo’s two minor children, identified by the initials A.F. and R.F. in court documents.
After the deduction of funeral expenses and fees to a guardian ad litem appointed to protect the interest of the children, the remaining $500,000 will be divided three ways between the children and the lawyers.
According to a settlement document, the children’s money will be placed in a blocked account, overseen by King County Superior Court, and will be allocated through a structured settlement paying each of them a yearly stipend for four years beginning in July 2033, with specified lump-sum payments in September of 2037 and 2039, according to court documents.
Nate Bingham, a Seattle attorney representing Faletogo’s estate, said the family and Faletogo’s mother, Lisa Elisara, would not have any immediate comment. “Iosia’s death is still an intensely emotional topic, so she is not feeling up to making a statement at this time,” he said.
A message sent Wednesday seeking comment from the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, which defended the city in the lawsuit, was not immediately returned.
Faletogo, 36, was in a vehicle stopped by police on Aurora Avenue North in North Seattle about 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve 2018. Faletogo ran from the vehicle across the busy street, chased by six police officers, who tackled him and piled on. Body camera video showed Faletogo was armed with a handgun at one point, which police said was stolen.
The lawsuit, filed earlier this year in federal court, alleged that Officer Jared Keller and Officer Garret Hay had seen Faletogo in a vehicle near North 90th Street and Aurora Avenue North, and began looking for a reason to stop him.
“Although another officer would later describe Iosia as ‘shady,’ it is difficult to
determine why they started following Iosia or what the officers believed was amiss,” according to the pleadings.
“In lieu of any other explanation about why the car looked ‘shady,’ it stands to reason that the officers’ attention was captured — either explicitly or implicitly — by the fact that Iosia was a Pacific Islander man riding in a car with a black woman in a predominantly white
neighborhood in North Seattle,” the lawsuit alleges.
The body camera video, while somewhat jumbled and hectic, indicates that after officers caught up with Faletogo he dropped the weapon at some point — it can be seen briefly on the ground — even as the struggling officers yelled at him to drop the gun or he would be shot.
An instant later, Keller fired a single round into Faletogo’s head, according to an internal investigation.
Both Hay and Keller had been dismissed from the lawsuit as part of the settlement.
The shooting drew scrutiny after the police video showed Faletogo on his hands and knees saying, “Nope, not reaching,” referring to the handgun that was on the ground.
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Keller has since left SPD and joined the Spokane Police Department, drawing further protests from Faletogo’s relatives east of the Cascades.
A 21-page report issued by the OPA found that the officers acted reasonably and within SPD policy. It quoted Keller and other officers involved in the struggle as saying they didn’t hear Faletogo say “Nope, not reaching” while they struggled and yelled warnings at him not to reach for the weapon.
Body-camera video suggested that in the seconds before making the statement, Faletogo was “still moving his hands on the ground in the vicinity of the handgun,” according to the report.
OPA Director Andrew Myerberg, who authored the report, determined that less than a second elapsed between Faletogo’s statement and the gunshot.