Ten days after two King County Sheriff's deputies fatally shot Renee Davis, a pregnant, 23-year-old Muckleshoot tribal member, during a welfare check, the department has released more information on what the deputies say happened the night of October 21.
According to the sheriff's office, one of the deputies, Nicholas Pritchett, received a tip that Davis was going to shoot herself. The tip came from Davis's boyfriend, who said Davis herself had told him that. (The Seattle Times has reported that Davis "struggled with depression," and that her foster sister also heard she was in a "bad way.")
In yesterday's release of information, the sheriff's office says that Davis pointed an unloaded handgun at deputies Pritchett and Tim Lewis before they shot her.
Pritchett had been stationed at the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation for seven years under a policing contract between the Tribe and the KCSO. (Instead of using tribal police, some tribes hire outside police officers to work on reservations.) The sheriff's office says that Pritchett was shown a text from Davis to her boyfriend showing a photo of what appeared to be a cut to an arm or leg.
When the deputies arrived, they saw two children in the house and feared Davis had taken her own life. According to the sheriff's office, the deputies asked the children to open the door, and then asked the children where Davis was. The deputies knocked on the door the children pointed to, but didn't receive a response. Then, according to the sheriff's office, the deputies moved the children to the porch, entered the room Davis was in, and found her lying on a bed under a blanket. The sheriff's office version of events says that the deputies asked Davis to show her hands, and when she didn't, Pritchett pulled off the blanket to find Davis holding a handgun and a gun magazine.
Deputies ordered Davis to put down the weapon. But, the sheriff's office says, she pointed the handgun at them. That's when the deputies fired, later discovering that the handgun Davis had been holding was empty.
The Stranger has reached out to the lawyer representing the Muckleshoot Tribe about next steps in investigating the shooting, but we haven't yet heard back. Last week, King County Sheriff John Urquhart said that his department would continue to investigate the shooting internally, but that the tribe could request that another entity—like the FBI—investigate the circumstances of the shooting.
While the information released from the Sheriff's Office noted that both deputies who shot Davis had received eight hours of crisis intervention training, that amount of training is far from sufficient, says Gabriel Galanda, managing partner at local law firm Galanda Broadman.
"All these cops are set up to fail," Galanda says. "In this political climate, no one's funding police forces. Money's not being allocated to local government to train these cops, they don't know what they're doing, and then they're out on the reservation and an Indian community. Deputies aren't equipped to deal with the mentally ill, especially the brown mentally ill."
Galanda's law firm is currently representing the family of Cecil D. Lacy Jr., a 50-year-old member of the Tulalip Tribes who died of a heart attack after two Tulalip Tribal Police and a Snohomish County Sheriff's deputy stopped him and tasered him, according to the family's lawsuit against the state and Snohomish County.
"This man was mentally ill, he was having a manic moment, and the police were insufficiently trained to deal with him," Ryan Dreveskracht, an attorney at Galanda Broadman, said of the Lacy suit. "This is something we see more and more of, because unfortunately the ability to get people the free help that they need isn't what it used to be. We're defunding mental health resources, and more and more we're seeing this dealt with by police who frankly aren't trained to deescalate crisis situations."
According to the Guardian's count of fatal police shootings in the United States, Native Americans face the most disproportionate level of police shootings of any ethnic group.