- Ben Steiner
- Nick Metz displays a photograph of a sharpened stone found on the dead 21-year-old
A grim-faced Deputy Police Chief Nick Metz briefed a crowd of reporters this morning on Tuesday night's officer-involved confrontation with a 370-lb mentally ill man by the name of Jack Sun Keewatinawin, who was shot dead by Seattle Police on Tuesday night in Greenwood. Only one of the officers who responded to the scene had Crisis Intervention Training—i.e., they were trained to handle people in the throes of a mental-health crisis.
The police are still investigating what exactly led to this fatal confrontation, which began when police responded to two 911 calls stating that a man was being held hostage at knifepoint by his mentally ill son. The incident ended with the officers firing eight to nine bullets into the agitated 21-year-old. At this point it's unclear if the officers knew the man was mentally ill when they arrived, what type of illness the 21-year-old was diagnosed with, why there were stray bullet holes in surrounding houses, or if the officers acted within protocol.
However, Metz was quick to point out that all police in Seattle are going to be trained in dealing with mentally ill people soon (which should already be happening, given that this is not a new problem, and which, another officer later noted, probably wouldn't have helped in this case).
The press conference began with two recorded 911 calls from the deceased's two brothers. They were both out of town and had received a call from their mentally ill brother, Metz explained. "My dad's being killed right now... my brothers got a knife to him," the first brother stated hysterically, "He was saying he's going to kill my Dad."
"My little brother... thinks that I raped his girlfriend and took his money and my dad was in the background saying 'please stop'", reported the second 911 caller. "I think he's got my dad hostage." The caller added that his mentally ill brother had neither money nor a girlfriend.
Seattle Police arrived almost "simultaneously to the call coming in," Metz said. As officers were setting up containment, the suspect came out on the porch. He was described by Metz as "highly agitated and not responding to the police directives." The suspect's father then came out on the porch and the suspect moved to stand behind him, "using him as a human shield," Metz explained.
The father had informed the officers that the subject "was armed with a knife and a steel pipe."
Keewatinawin then ran inside. The officers followed him, concerned that there may be a hostage inside or another weapon. Officers attempted to tase Keewatinawin but his clothes were too thick for the prongs to make contact with the man's skin.
The chase ended outside, where one of the officers attempted to tase Keewatinawin again, and in the process "slipped on the wet grass" and landed on his back with his leg pinned under him, Metz said. The officer on the ground was armed with a shotgun just a few feet from the subject.
At this point, Keewatinawin turned and allegedly stood over the officer with a piece of rebar in his hand in an "attack-like manner," Metz said. The officer on the ground said he believed his "life was in danger."
That officer, along with two others who were chasing Keewatinawin, then "opened fire on the subject pretty much simultaneous[ly]," Metz said. Eight to nine shots were fired. Keewatinawin was rushed to Harborview where he was later pronounced dead.
The three officers who fired on Keewatinawin were Stephen Sperry, Michael Spaulding, and Tyler Speer, said SPD communications spokesman, Sgt. Sean Whitcomb. All of them had roughly five years experience, and only one of them had "Crisis Intervention Training."
CIT training is designed to provide officers with skills to deescalate situations with mentally ill subjects. Only about half of Seattle Police are trained in CIT, but Whitcomb says that SPD is in the process of making sure that all Seattle police officers will receive the training in the near future.
Of course, SPD is busy covering as much of their ass as possible. For example, Sgt. Whitcomb cautioned that this particular type of situation was not necessarily CIT territory. Using CIT training on a situation like this would be like police responding to a bank robbery, shooting the robber, and being asked "well couldn't you talk the bank robber down?" Whitcomb explained.
"It doesn't matter if the person is completely mentally sound or ill and off their medication," Whitcomb explained, "you have to take action, you don't have the luxury of just watching things unfold and say 'I hope it turns out okay.'"
SPD promises to keep the public updated online.