The results of the Office of Police Accountability investigation were submitted to Interim Police Chief Carmen Best for a final decision and any potential disciplinary action.
Two Seattle police officers violated policies when they fired a barrage of gunshots that injured the driver and passenger of a stolen car fleeing an Eastlake alley in October, the department’s internal-investigation unit has found.
The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) recommended that allegations regarding excessive use of force, use of deadly force on a fleeing person and firing weapons at a moving vehicle be sustained, said Andrew Myerberg, OPA’s civilian director.
Myerberg said the officers’ chain of command agreed with the findings, which were jointly submitted to Interim Police Chief Carmen Best for a final decision and any potential disciplinary action.
Neither officer was named by the OPA, but the department has previously identified them as Officer Kenneth Martin and Officer Tabitha Sexton. They will be given the opportunity to meet with the chief before a decision is reached. Hearings have been set for May.
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In Martin’s case, the OPA recommended that an additional allegation of failure to de-escalate the situation also be sustained.
No details on the findings were released. The Seattle Times has filed a public-disclosure request for the OPA’s written findings and analysis. Kevin Stuckey, president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, could not be reached for comment.
On Oct. 8, Martin and Sexton fired dozens of rounds at a fleeing Subaru in an alley west of the 2200 block of Yale Avenue East. Video footage captured by officers’ body cameras and dashboard cameras was released by the department’s public-affairs office two days after the incident.
Police had responded to a call reporting two people using drugs and possibly handling a gun inside a car.
The video shows officers moving toward a car as an officer asks “is that them right there?” Officers then yell for one of the individuals to get on the ground, but the person ran toward the car.
The video then shows four officers running toward the car, with one of them — identified as Martin — standing in front of the car and moving out of the way as the driver leaves a parking stall and heads north through the alley.
Martin and Sexton initially opened fire as the car pulled out. The driver briefly stopped the car twice as the officers opened fire again with numerous gunshots. The driver then turned the vehicle right and drove off.
The driver and passenger were not seriously hurt and were arrested later in Everett.
In charging documents filed against both occupants of the car, a Seattle police detective wrote that as officers approached the car on foot, they shouted commands that the suspects ignored.
Martin was standing in front the car, and patrol-car video showed the driver accelerated forward and struck Martin as he was trying to get out of the way, according to the detective.
“To stop the imminent threat, officers fired their firearms,” the detective wrote.
One issue to arise in the incident was whether the officers had justification to fire the second volley of shots, when the car appeared to be driving away.
According to the Police Department’s manual, officers shouldn’t fire at a moving vehicle “unless a person in the vehicle is immediately threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by means other than the vehicle.” The manual states that the moving vehicle itself shall not “presumptively constitute a threat that justifies” deadly force.
Officers also should move out of the path of a vehicle unless the person is immediately threatening the officer or another person.
King County prosecutors conducted a preliminary review of the incident, but tentatively declined to bring criminal charges against Martin and Sexton. Prosecutors, who will make a final determination later, returned the case to the Police Department for further investigation.
Myerberg said the OPA didn’t reach a conclusion on whether the two officers committed violations of law, leaving that decision to prosecutors.
Prosecutors charged a man and his mother in connection with the stolen car after their fingerprints were found on the Subaru Impreza, according to court documents. The car had been found abandoned in North King County.
Joshua Brooks, 21, the driver, pleaded guilty April 5 to possession of a stolen vehicle and is awaiting sentencing. His mother, Wendy Lee, 46, who pleaded guilty to taking a motor vehicle without permission, was sentenced in December to 49 days of time served in the King County Jail.
Before they were booked into jail, Brooks and Lee were both treated at Harborview Medical Center for injuries suffered in the shooting. Brooks had two gunshot wounds to his lower back, and Lee’s lower back and legs were peppered with tiny pieces of shrapnel, according to court documents.