A photo taken by a neighbor the morning of the shooting
  • A photo taken by a neighbor the morning of the shooting.

In the early hours of Friday morning, a Bellevue Police SWAT team fatally shot a man on a little dead-end street in Columbia City. The close-knit community of residents on that street are growing increasingly outraged that the official description of events is, from their point of view, inaccurate and that what really happened on their block is being shushed by two police departments and a credulous media. Seattle Police stand by their account.

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The police blotter statement that came from Seattle Police Department's Sergeant Sean Whitcomb Friday afternoon (the same statement was released by Bellevue Police as well) says Bellevue police were serving a warrant related to "a spree of armed robberies" and discovered one of the suspects in a vehicle on the street. After noticing approaching SWAT officers, the suspect, according to police, backed the car up "with such velocity and disregard that he struck a parked F-250 pickup truck and pushed it several yards into the street," then ignored commands to stop and started to drive forward. At that point, police say, "concerned that the suspect would drive them over rather than surrender, three Bellevue Police officers fired their weapons at this man, wounding him fatally."

But accounts from neighbors differ. They say this was an oversize police response that made them feel endangered, and they don't think the suspect was endangering officers.

Guy Davis, who says the shooting "happened directly in front of my house," contacted The Stranger, and I spoke with him today. He says that the police and media have portrayed this as a man who was trying to run down police officers and posed an immediate threat. But in his view, the suspect was basically trapped in his car after crashing it so hard into the truck behind it that later, a "tow truck had to pry the vehicles apart," and that he couldn't have escaped, since the street's only entrance was blocked. As he sees it, police shot a sitting duck. (He sent us the photo above, which he says shows those two cars stuck together. The suspect was driving the car on the right.) He wants the neighborhood's side of the story to get out. "It's a dead-end block," he told me. "We have a block e-mail list, we all know each other, we have block hangouts." He feels like "the Bellevue police and the SPD put my family in the line of fire," bringing a SWAT team into their residential neighborhood and spraying a car with multiple rounds far too close to where Davis, his wife, and their three children were sleeping. It doesn't appear that the suspect was armed (police haven't mentioned a weapon), and Davis says the car was stuck and couldn't have driven toward officers. He's been posting firsthand accounts of the shooting on Facebook, at least one of which was forwarded widely and read on KEXP last night by Street Sounds DJ (and Stranger writer) Larry Mizell Jr.

Sergeant Sean Whitcomb, reached for comment, says he's heard some of Davis's account via Twitter, including the part about the tow truck. He says he "specifically talked to Homicide" today to clarify that part of the story, and was told that "the information we released [on Friday] was correct." The suspect "did go forward with such velocity again that he struck a second car," and was shot while driving forward, says Whitcomb. After the shooting, the car "rolled into the truck" again, and if it looked like a tow truck later pried them apart, it was likely because they were being "very careful" with evidence, he says.

UPDATE Tues, 3/26, 2:10 p.m.: Davis says he believes he may have gotten it wrong that a tow truck pried the two cars apart, and other neighbors have said that's not what happened. But Davis and others say they remain unsure how the car could've rolled perfectly back into alignment with the original collision after going far enough forward to strike another car.

Another resident who lives one street away, Jocelyn Savage, also contacted us, calling the shooting "a horrific incident" and saying that media reports so far had "failed to include some very disturbing details." Reached by phone, Savage says she and her husband woke to loud gunfire that morning, followed about 10 minutes later by explosions that rocked their home—those turned out to be percussion grenades thrown in a house police thought contained another suspect. That house turned out to be empty. Savage says reports she's read don't mention "how horribly violent that was, and how much force was used." Without any contact from police, they "had no idea on god’s green earth was happening," and were trapped in their house for hours. She reiterates Davis's feeling of an overwhelming police response that terrified neighbors.

I've tried to get a copy of a police report, but SPD is now investigating the officer-involved shooting for the Bellevue Police, and that investigation is ongoing and not yet public. Meanwhile, the BPD hasn't responded to requests for comment or a copy of the police report. Neighborhood residents are meeting with an SPD representative tonight to talk about what happened.

More of Davis's descriptions of events, taken from Facebook posts, are below. We'll post pictures as soon as we get them from residents who say they took pictures of the aftermath.

This morning, at 4:57 am, Bellevue SWAT assassinated an unarmed man directly in front of my house by firing 23 rounds into his body with automatic assault weapons. My three sleeping children and my wife were less than five degress from the line of fire. The Bellevue and Seattle Police claim that while attempting to deliver a warrant, the victim backed up and hit our neighbors' truck and then put the car into drive and lurched forward and that that is the reason that the eight person strong, fully armored and armed SWAT team opened fire. This is not true, and my neighbors and I have pictures to prove it. The car hit the truck with such force in reverse that later the tow truck had to pry the vehicles apart. Furthermore, we live on a dead-end street and the SWAT tank was behind the truck that the victim backed into and blocked the only exit from this block. ( I could clearly see this through my window) There was no where for this dude to go in his car and the SWAT would have clearly known that. The victim was on his way to work, had violated his parole and panicked when approached by SWAT and hit the gas in reverse, (granted a very stupid, and in this case, a fatal mistake) at which point the SWAT team opened fire. Following the explosion of gun fire, the SPD gave us no information, only yelling "stay in your homes" which of course I ignored and evacuated my family with no assistance from our "protectors". Immediately after the killing, my children were screaming, "I don't want to die" as the SWAT continued their assault with percussion grenades on the vacant house while the victim bled to death on the street. This is outrageously blatant misconduct and this block of supportive neighbors has pictures and we have a voice. I don't contest that the police have to sometimes use deadly force, however, this man was unarmed and this operation was conducted on a densely populated residential street where over ten children and their families live. The Bellevue police and the SPD put my family in the line of fire.

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My whole family was asleep in the bedroom on the street side of the house when we were all awakened by a very loud noise. In the first instant, I thought that somebody was banging on our window with a metal pipe and it seemed like the window would explode, but then noticed the blue flashes and realized it was gun fire. I scooped the entire family off the bed onto the floor and looked out our bedroom window. I saw a SWAT tank directly in front of our house blocking the only exit from our block and just South of that my neighbors’ gold Mercedes reverse crashed into the back of my other neighbors F250 truck, and right next to the car I saw what looked like eight SWAT team members with assault rifles, helmets and the whole deal. My wife and I dragged everyone low to the floor into the back bedroom. Large explosive sounds continued. After everyone was safely in the back room, I stuck my head out the front door and heard a SPD officer over on Hudson on the exit side of the tank yell, “stay in your house”, at the same time, I heard a SWAT team member say, “He’s bleeding a lot, lets get a gurney over here and get him off the grass.”
At that point I determined that the true threat was the SWAT team themselves and decided to get the family out of the house and down to my Mom’s place just down the street. We frantically dressed the children (8, 5 and 1 ½ years old) and I considered going out the back door and through the neighbor’s yard. However, I figured that we could be mistaken for the enemy and shot if we did that, so we went out the front door after announcing our intension and left down the side walk. SWAT was in a close huddle configuration by the front of the target house, one house away from our home. We quickly got in touch with neighbors via cell phone and emails and were informed that a second SWAT team arrived and that eventually they sent a robot into the house. I was so thankful to have self-evacuated because if we hadn’t we would have all been huddled in the back room of our house for hours with no information just cowering on the floor. I wrote to my neighborhood email list, which was a running dialogue about the unfolding events, that there was absolutely nobody and no bomb in the house and that it was all a show to justify the overwhelming use of force that had played out at 5 a.m. At one point the police announced, “we know you are in there, come out with your hands up!” Thermal imaging is an effective tool these days, and it should have been easy to figure out that there was not a living being anywhere in that house. This all played out from 5 am to 11 am, a six hour length of time during which all of my neighbors where prisoners in their homes and fearing another eruption of gun fire. After cutting through the steel door, breaking multiple windows and sending in tear gas, concussion bombs etc. and finally storming the house, nobody was found inside.

To focus on the members of the SWAT team as the source of this violence would be ludicrous. Bellevue Police Command chose to mobilize a SWAT unit to our quite residential neighborhood in the middle of the night for what? We still do not know. From our perspective now, the man they killed was a petty criminal who had a record. All that we, the residents of this block, have heard is that Bellevue Police were serving a warrant of some kind (arrest? search?).
It makes sense to me that if you send a military unit into an area than you better be willing to wage war there. War is exactly what happened that morning and somebody got killed, and luckily, it was only one person.
The Bellevue Police brass back at the precinct or idling in SUV’s nearby consciously made the choice to put the sleeping families on this block in harm’s way. But was the target worth it?
Was there any analysis of the established intelligence where the calculated result equaled that the targeted individual poses such a threat to society that the potential for collateral fatalities to the families and neighbors on that block was worth the risk of this operation?