Last March, when King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg declined to file charges against the Seattle police officers who shot and killed 46-year-old Che Taylor in February of 2016, Taylor's wife, Brenda Taylor, vowed to file a civil lawsuit over her husband's death. On Tuesday, Taylor's family did just that, suing the City of Seattle and the officers involved in the shooting.
The Taylor family, represented by civil rights attorney James Bible, claims in the federal lawsuit that the Seattle violated their civil rights by depriving Che Taylor of due process. The lawsuit is additionally seeking damages for claims of negligence, emotional distress, unlawful seizure, and false arrest.
Two years ago to the day, Seattle police officers shot Che Taylor in Wedgewood as they approached him to arrest him for unlawful possession of a firearm. The police officers—Michael Spaulding and Scott Miller—were working undercover when they said they recognized Taylor, who had served previous sentences for rape and armed robbery. Miller later told an inquest jury that he saw Taylor with a gun on his hip. Taylor had been standing next to an open car door, speaking to people inside the car, when the officers approached him with a rifle and a shotgun and shouted commands to show his hands and get on the ground.
The officers told the inquest jury that Taylor did not comply with commands and reached for a gun before they shot, but the inquest jury disagreed: Instead, after listening to audio and watching video of the incident, the eight-person fact-finding jury found that Taylor did show his hands and moved downward before he was shot. Still, the inquest jury also concluded that the officers feared for their lives before shooting Taylor.
When Satterberg reviewed the case, he said the officers were "entitled to use defense." The lawsuit claims, however, that Taylor was trying to comply with conflicting commands when he was shot.
"Ultimately, we decided that this case needed to be filed in the interest of Justice," Bible told The Stranger by e-mail. "It is our perception that Mr. Taylor was shot while attempting to comply with inconsistent commands yelled at him by police officers from multiple directions."
Since the Che Taylor inquest, Taylor's family has been deeply involved with the efforts to change the state's restrictive deadly force law, which only allows officers to be held criminally liable for fatal shootings if they demonstrate "malice."