The Seattle Police Department offered a firmer time line of the events that led to the fatal shooting of a 50-year-old man on Boren Avenue by Officer Ian Birk—a two-year veteran of the department—but few details on what led to the fatality or if it could have been prevented, in the end, called on potential witnesses to come forward with more details to help with the investigation.

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"We don't know why [the officer] didn't call for backup first," said Deputy Chief Nick Metz. Metz also said that it was unclear if the man made any gestures or lunged at the officer before the shooting, but said that when interviewed, the officer believed his safety was in danger.

The knife confiscated from the victim (click to enlarge)
  • The knife confiscated from the victim (click to enlarge)
"The only thing we know for sure is the individual had a knife, and that officer repeated calls to drop the knife," said Police Chief John Diaz. He added that, "we know from audio recordings, the officer issued at least three commands for the suspect to drop his knife."

Metz said the officer wasn't equipped with a Taser. But even if he was, "We don’t recommend officers using a Taser [when approaching someone with a knife]," explains Metz. "A knife is considered a deadly weapon."

However, the knife the victim was carrying had a three-inch blade, which is legal under the city's municipal code.

As for more de-escalation training, "that works for a benign situation," says Chief Diaz. "It becomes much more dicey when there’s a situation with a potential deadly weapon involved."

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In its entirety, from reviewing police footage, SPD says the incident—from the officer pulling over to the time of the shooting—happened in under a minute. The officer saw the man crossing Howell Street with a wooden board and a knife. He stopped his patrol car and turned on emergency lights, which activates the in-car patrol camera. SPD confirmed that the footage shows both the man with the knife and the officer cross in front of the camera and then go out of view, but the department has no footage of the actual incident. "We could hear through microphone, the officer tell the man three times to drop the knife," Metz reiterated. The man refused the officer’s orders. From approximately nine to 10 feet away, the officer fired four rounds. "The man went down, the officer called for backup, and officers arrived within a minute and a half," Metz explained. The man was declared dead at the scene.

Chief Diaz reiterated that the situation is still under investigation. "My pledge to you is to conduct a transparent investigation, and a complete investigation," he said. Chief Diaz then called on anyone who might have been a witness to the incident to contact SPD's homicide department with information.