The two Seattle police officers who fatally shot Che Taylor and later sued City Council Member Kshama Sawant for defamation withdrew their lawsuit in January.
But officers Michael Spaulding and Scott Miller are still asking for damages over remarks Sawant made to win in 2016, alleging the council member defamed them when she called Taylor’s death a “brutal murder” involving “racial profiling.” Neither officer was charged for the shooting after a fact-finding inquest found they both feared for their lives before Taylor’s death.
Last month, the officers filed a claim with the City of Seattle for an unspecified amount of damages over the same allegations. And this time, they want to settle the case out of court. Attorney Daniel Brown sent a letter to Council President Bruce Harrell on February 2 requesting mediation of the claims, rather than a court case, “in the hopes of resolving what would otherwise be a very public and costly dispute.” The city has until April 2 to respond to the claim, after which the officers would have the option of pursuing another lawsuit. Brown did not respond to a request for comment.
Activists gathered at the steps of City Hall today to pressure officials not to pay the officers damages for their defamation claim. Andre Taylor, the brother of Che Taylor, said settling would set a dangerous precedent.
“We cannot afford for Seattle to cave into the demands of officers’ hurt feelings,” Taylor said. "They weren’t injured. No one physically harmed them. My brother was physically harmed and killed."
Emerson Johnson, an organizer leading the effort known as the Kshama Sawant Solidarity Campaign, pointed out that the officers’ original lawsuit stated that they “do not want one red cent of public money.”
Other community activists who spoke in support of Sawant included former mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver, the Democratic Socialist of America's Shaun Scott, and Jenn Kaplan, Seattle chapter president of the National Lawyers Guild. Sawant also spoke during the rally, but did not address the case, citing her lawyer’s advice.
Free speech lawyers told Stranger reporter Heidi Groover in August that neither case stood a good chance of prevailing.
Before the two officers dropped their lawsuit earlier this year, the City of Seattle agreed to represent Sawant over her comments about the Che Taylor shooting. That’s in addition to representing Sawant in a separate defamation case stemming from her calling the landlord Carl Haglund a “slumlord.” Lawyers for the city estimated that it may spend more than $300,000 defending Sawant in the two cases.
A spokesperson for the office of Finance and Administrative Services, which oversees claims against the city, did not immediately respond to request for comment.