At a vigil on Sunday marking one week since Seattle police officers killed Che Taylor, his older brother revealed that he'd spoken with Chief Kathleen O'Toole last Friday.
Andre Taylor described the conversation with the chief as cordial. He said they didn't get into the specifics of the case, but that O'Toole "seemed fair."
That said, he told her, "It's going be extremely hard for us to come to some type of compromise unless this officer is brought up on charges and fired." He said Che Taylor was "unarmed" at the time of his death. SPD has said he disobeyed commands and reached for a handgun.
If an investigation were to find otherwise, prosecuting the officers would be very difficult under Washington state law, which is one of the most restrictive in the country when it comes to police killings. It requires prosecutors to demonstrate proof beyond a reasonable doubt that police killed "with malice." Democrats in the Washington State Legislature recently killed a proposal to strike the clause from the statute.
As for whether Officers Michael Spaulding or Scott Miller—the two officers in this dashcam video—could face firing from the SPD: That all depends, first of all, on what the department's six-person Force Investigation Team (FIT) determines in its investigation of the shooting. The team, which only exists because of Department of Justice-mandated reforms, is headed by Captain Mike Teeter.
One of the major problems in the pre-federal-reform era was the SPD's lack of documentation of use of force. Now, according to department policy, FIT goes to the scene of every officer-involved shooting and assembles a factual record. During the first 48 hours, the team works non-stop, according to SPD, recording interviews with involved officers and any witnesses. Officers are also required to fill out detailed use-of-force statements. The team is required to present the findings of its investigation to an Assistant Chief within thirty days.
When FIT is done, SPD's Firearms Review Board (FRB) will undertake a separate assessment of whether the use of force was justified. And King County will schedule an inquest, where a jury is called upon to engage in fact-finding about the case.
FIT received positive marks from Merrick Bobb, the federal court-appointed monitor, last fall, who found that in the vast majority of cases it carried out good investigations.
In 44 percent of the FIT cases reviewed by the monitor, "some leading questions were identified."
Still, the monitor said this was a marked improvement from the previous year, when he'd identified "problems with some basic investigative techniques, including the use of leading questions and the failure to ask obvious follow ups."
Again, last June, Bobb said "inappropriately leading and suggestive questions" were an ongoing concern, along with "concern[s] about the potential lack of objectivity during some FIT presentations to the FRB."
The findings of the FIT and FRB will be key to the outcomes for the officers who killed Che Taylor. They are both currently on paid administrative leave.
Alex Garland contributed reporting. This post has been updated since its original publication.