The city's Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) has cleared an SPD cop of any wrongdoing in the New Year’s Eve killing of Iosia Faletogo in North Seattle. Faletogo was pinned to the ground by multiple officers when one cop killed Faletogo with one shot fired at point blank range.
Corey Guilmette, an attorney for Faletogo’s family, said the shooting could have been prevented.
“Officers outnumbered Mr. Faletogo six-to-one and forced him onto his hands and knees,” Guilmette said in a statement. “After he was forced to the ground, an officer announced that Mr. Faletogo 'dropped the gun.' Once he complied with commands by dropping the gun, officers could have safely resolved the situation by picking up the gun.”
The city’s OPA disagreed, finding that Officer Jared Keller, who killed Faletogo, had no other safe option but to shoot and kill the 36-year-old because the officers saw a handgun on Faletogo and knew it was “within the subject’s immediate reach.”
“Given this and when the Subject continued to move his hands consistent with reaching for the handgun, the officers were faced with a deadly force scenario, and no further de-escalation was safe or feasible,” the OPA report said.
This is the second time Officer Keller has killed someone after less than four years at SPD.
Fatal uses of police force in Washington are required by law to be investigated by an independent department after voters passed Initiative 940 last year. SPD had not previously clarified how they were meeting this requirement and the department did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday.
Faletogo was pulled over at around 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve last year on Highway 99 near North 96th Street. Faletogo ran from his vehicle and six officers chased him across Highway 99. The officers quickly apprehended him and took him to the ground, yelling various commands with at least one officer warning, "You're going to get shot," and another officer yelling, “Taser, Taser, Taser.”
The OPA report said officers are not trained to use “less lethal” options like a Taser during these situations. Instead they are trained to have one officer attempt to control the suspect’s hands while another officer “is taught to place his firearm against the individual’s head to prepare to fire a contact shot.”
Guilmette, the attorney for Faletogo's family, said the incident showed SPD needs to change their policies and training.
“If Officer Keller acted pursuant to policy, then the Seattle Police Department needs to change policy and training,” Guilmette said. “The Seattle Police Department must train officers to avoid lethal force when non-lethal tactical options can safely resolve a situation. Unless the Seattle Police Department changes training to prevent the unnecessary loss of life, families will continue to lose their loved ones to needless police shootings.”