At least two Seattle police officers who were in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday during the riot at the U.S. Capitol have been placed on administrative leave, according to a Friday night statement from interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz.
“The Department fully supports all lawful expressions of First Amendment freedom of speech, but the violent mob and events that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol were unlawful and resulted in the death of another police officer,” Diaz said in the statement. “… If any SPD officers were directly involved in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, I will immediately terminate them.”
The city’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) is investigating whether any Police Department policies were violated and will conduct a “full review of any SPD employee activities at the U.S. Capitol.”
Officer Valerie Carson, a spokesperson for the Police Department, said Friday night the officers were not on duty while they were in D.C. The department did not release any other information about the officers and Carson referred further questions to OPA.
Andrew Myerberg, OPA’s civilian director, said late Friday that the patrol chief notified his office about the officers around 9 p.m. Thursday evening, and an internal investigation case was initiated early Friday.
“We learned about this in an email last night,” Myerberg said in a phone interview. “There’s a picture that circulated on social media of the two officers at the protest rally. So, yes, we believe they were there, but we don’t know all the facts yet, so that’s why we’re doing the investigation.”
The OPA will try to determine “what role the officers played” at the D.C. protests, including whether they participated with the mob in the deadly riot that breached the Capitol, he said.
“The fundamental question will be, ‘Is being present at the rally in and of itself a violation of department policy?’” Myerberg said. “And I just don’t know that yet. I think it really depends on what they did and what their role was in those events.”
OPA investigators will also seek to find out if any other Seattle officers may have attended or participated in Wednesday’s events, and if so, to what extent, he said.
Seattle Police Officers Guild Mike Solan did not immediately return a message seeking comment late Friday.
Diaz’s statement comes after a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, protesting President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, interrupting congressional debate and marching through the building, ransacking many areas. A woman was shot and killed inside the Capitol, and Washington’s mayor instituted an evening curfew in an attempt to contain the violence.
U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who responded to the riot, died from injuries sustained during the violence, police confirmed Thursday evening.