The Central District block where DeSzaun Smallwood was killed.
  • Malcolm Smith
  • The Central District block where DeSzaun Smallwood was killed.

(Originally posted yesterday evening.)

In the current Stranger, freelance broadcast reporter and Central District resident Tonya Mosley wonders if the "No Snitch Code" has become an excuse for Seattle police detectives to not thoroughly investigate crimes like the recent killing of DeSzaun Smallwood—one of three recent fatal shootings in the Central District that remain unsolved.

"I'm not naive," Molsey writes. "I know the 'No Snitch Code' is real. There is a culture of mistrust when it comes to police within black communities, and it is deep-seated. But in murder investigations, even if police feel like they know potential witnesses will give them the same answers, isn't it their jobs to ask anyway?"

Mosley asks this particular question because Seattle police detectives, at a May 7 community meeting, told her and other Central District residents that the "No Snitch Code" was a problem, and that they'd already gone door-to-door on the block where Smallwood was killed but found no leads.

But Mosley found something different when she went door-to-door on that block herself, asking if anyone had been contacted by police detectives:

Everyone I spoke to responded with a resounding “No.”

And these were not people trying to get someone off their front porch. They weren’t saying, “No, go away.” They were perplexed and curious, as if to say, “Were the police supposed to come talk to me?”

On Thursday, Seattle Police Department spokesman Sean Whitcomb called The Stranger to offer a response to Mosley's story.

"We've read Tonya's article," Whitcomb said, "and we understand that residents are frustrated and would like to see us do more. Homicide cases are the most serious investigations that we perform, since they involve the loss of human life. This particular investigation has been assigned to detectives and is active and ongoing. We have canvassed twice in the vicinity of this crime."

The department also said this in a recent Tweet, but when asked whether the multiple canvasses included the block where the murder of Smallwood occurred, Whitcomb declined to answer.

He continued:

Anyone with information on this or any other violent crime is asked to call us at the homicide unit, 206.684.5550, or the homicide tip line, 206.233.5000. As soon as there are updates that we can share, we will broadcast them publicly.

He also explained that his statements were not intended to dispute Mosley's story. "I'm not going to engage in a debate or dismiss what Tonya has said," Whitcomb said. "But, on the other hand, I'm going to stand by the work that our detectives performed. We can't comment on the investigation at this point. Detectives are still working this case. We are satisfied with the canvass, but fully accept that it's possible we may have missed something. Anyone who has information should call us.”

Then, in a statement that seems to signal the kind of new day at the Seattle Police Department that Mayor Ed Murray and Kathleen O'Toole are promising, Whitcomb said:

Language matters. Words matter. We care very deeply about the communities we serve. Violence impacts all of us. Violent crime is our number one priority in every community in this city. We also recognize that the "No Snitch Code" can present investigatory challenges, but we're not going to use it as an excuse. Besides human testimony, our investigations rely on forensic evidence, privately owned and business surveillance, and old-fashioned detective work.

Mosley's full piece is here.