A King County Sheriff’s Office detective who posted a series of Facebook posts this summer mocking racial justice protesters faces possible termination from the department.
Among the posts was an image reading “All Lives Splatter” that the detective posted the same day a driver hit two protesters on Interstate 5. One of the protesters, Summer Taylor, later died.
King County Undersheriff Patti Cole-Tindall recommended the veteran detective, Michael R. Brown, be fired, according to a memo released by the Sheriff’s Office Tuesday. Brown can now meet with Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht before Johanknecht makes a final decision about whether to fire him.
The posts violated department policy and harmed Brown’s “ability to be effective in law enforcement,” Undersheriff Patti Cole-Tindall wrote in a memo released by the office Tuesday.
“The blow to the department’s integrity was staggering,” Cole-Tindall wrote.
The King County Police Officers Guild could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon. The Sheriff’s Office was working with the union to schedule the meeting with Brown, said Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Ryan Abbott.
Screenshots of Brown’s posts circulated online this summer and drew immediate outrage during ongoing protests against racism and police violence. The Sheriff’s Office received “hundreds” of complaints about Brown’s posts, Cole-Tindall wrote. In a lawsuit filed last month, attorneys for Taylor’s family described Brown’s posts as reflective of “a callous, jaded, and us-versus-them mentality that is not befitting to … members of law enforcement.”
The Sheriff’s Office is still investigating other employees who interacted with Brown’s posts online, Abbott said.
Brown, who is Gov. Jay Inslee’s cousin, worked for the Sheriff’s Office for 40 years and had worked with the unit that provides security for the county executive. In 2013, he was suspended for one day after he was found to have violated department policy during a hit-and-run in Chelan County involving property damage, during which he was “apparently intoxicated,” Cole-Tindall wrote.
An internal investigation reviewed a series of Brown’s Facebook posts from June and early July. Among them: Brown shared a video from a protest in Baltimore, where a woman punched a police officer and another officer then punched the woman, and wrote, “When in Doubt….Knock em Out.” He shared a movie clip showing a law enforcement officer shooting people and wrote, “Here they come CHOP CHAZ.”
After a driver struck Taylor and another protester, Diaz Love, on I-5, Brown posted the illustration reading “All Lives Splatter” and showing a vehicle hitting three stick figures. In another post, he wrote, “I see a couple of people got infected with Covid-19 from the hood of a car on I-5 last night.”
In an interview with the Internal Investigations Unit, Brown largely denied knowing the posts could be offensive, according to portions of the interview transcript included in a memo by Troy Olmsted, chief of the Criminal Investigations Division.
He said he did not make a connection between “All Lives Splatter” and “Black Lives Matter.”
Brown said that as a kid, when his dad was mad, “he’d tell us to go play out in the freeway. … When I saw this, it reminded me of my dad who just recently passed away.”
Asked whether he considered that the post mocked violence against protesters, Brown said, “My perception of it at the time was that you go on the freeway at 1:30 in the morning, bad things are going to happen.”
The post about COVID-19 was meant to be a statement about deaths that have been wrongly classified as COVID-19 and the “when in doubt” phrase was “the Hell’s Angels motto,” Brown said.
Brown had about 800 friends on Facebook who could view the posts, according to the memo.
“Brown’s claims that he did not associate his posts with a theme of violence against protesters lacks credibility,” Olmsted wrote. Brown’s job gave him “access to significant information” about protests, Olmsted wrote.
“At minimum, these posts demonstrated incredibly poor judgement and lack of sensitivity,” Olmsted wrote. “At worst, the posts were written to promote violence against people expressing views that police agencies engage in biased based policing.”