The King County Medical Examiner's office confirmed today that the cause of Che Taylor's death was multiple gunshot wounds and the manner of death was homicide. The examiner's office isn't releasing any more details at this time.
The SPD is investigating whether the homicide—police killed Taylor on February 21—was justified.
Andre Taylor, his older brother, and members of Che Taylor's family met with investigators from the medical examiner's office last week.
Taylor, who is acting as an unofficial spokesperson for the family, said his brother died from six bullets that tore through the left side of his body—two through the tricep, three through the back, and one through the buttocks—based on the information they were provided. One of those bullets entered through his back left side and pierced the heart.
"What is known is that my brother was shot six times by an assault rifle," Taylor said. "The thing about this particular type of bullet: It shatters." He said no complete bullets were found—only fragments.
Office of Professional Accountability Director Pierce Murphy—the department's top civilian watchdog—told KUOW today that he hasn't seen any basis thus far to refer the police shooting for criminal prosecution.
In a follow-up interview, he told me he's at an early stage in his monitoring of the department's Force Investigation Team investigation, which could take up to three months, and his statements don't mean he won't necessarily come upon something that prompts a referral to prosecutors.
Also today, SPD cleared up which officer is which in dashcam video of the shooting: Michael Spaulding is the officer who comes around the car first toward Che Taylor. Scott Miller is second, following Spaulding around the car.
Andre Taylor said he believes the second officer came with the intent to kill and called for his firing and prosecution. He is not calling for Chief Kathleen O'Toole, who he described as "fair," to be fired, as some protesters demanded last week.
Spaulding was involved in another officer-involved shooting in 2013 and was one of 123 officers who filed a notorious lawsuit seeking to block use-of-force reforms. Miller's history is unknown.
Not much else is known about the incident at this time because SPD is not sharing anything else beyond what it disclosed the day after the shooting. The department described Che Taylor as an "armed felon," offered additional details about his criminal history, and claimed he was reaching for a gun when police shot him.
Council Member Lorena González said today she does not plan to hold a hearing on the shooting until SPD's internal investigation is finished.
In an e-mail last Friday, Kshama Sawant suggested that González, whose Safe Communities committee oversees the police, convene a council briefing this week about the shooting. She proposed inviting Seattle-King County NAACP head Gerald Hankerson and O'Toole. Sawant marched with the Taylor family and protesters last week.
"I am convinced that our communities are horrified and in shock," Sawant said. "I believe it will be important to openly discuss these events, the SPD’s internal investigation into them, and community concerns."
González—who represented the victim in the notorious 2011 "Mexican piss" police brutality case—responded that she plans to hold hearings on the shooting, but wouldn't want to hold one now because it might intensify trauma for Taylor's family and because the internal investigation is ongoing.
Still, González told me, "I’m committed to making sure that the truth is uncovered through that [investigation], and I'm willing to ask the tough questions to make sure the investigation is what it should be."
I asked Andre Taylor what the family wants. He said Sawant's intentions were positive but her office should have consulted the family about the briefing idea first.
Still, he called the briefing "something that we would be interested in"—anything that sheds more light on the death of his brother. (UPDATE 4:26 p.m.: Taylor said after this post went up, he spoke with the Sawant office and his family supports holding a council briefing.)
By the way: If you're wondering why I haven't mentioned Che Taylor's criminal history so far, well, I'm going to let Council Member González, a former civil rights attorney, explain it to you. I suggested that the SPD had poisoned the well of public opinion by publicizing the details of his criminal history, and she said:
This article has been updated since its original publication. Pierce Murphy, the OPA Director, said he hadn't seen any basis for referring the shooting for criminal prosecution thus far, not that such a referral was unlikely.
Whether or not a person has a criminal record or background, there is absolutely no relevance to whether or not the amount of force a department has used on him or her is appropriate or not.
The only time someone’s criminal behavior becomes relevant to this issue is to explain why the police and the victim had come into contact. But their history and their background is not relevant to the question of whether or not a person has a constitutional right to be free from excessive force...
Does it matter if you are a felon? You have a right to be alive. You have a right to live free from excessive force and biased policing. It is unfair and incorrect to infer that it’s okay to take somebody’s life because they are a felon or because they are suspected of having committed a crime.
They come into contact with police because they’ve been accused of being involved in criminal activity. That reason should be the only relevant information to any internal investigation… the rest of it plays no role in determining whether or not the officer used appropriate force or not.