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Examining 2022’s first Seattle Police Department shooting: Two avoidable casualties?

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Jan. 5th, just days into the new year, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) reported 2022’s first police-involved shooting. Police footage posted to the department’s YouTube account shows a Beacon Hill resident calling the police, informing them that there was an “intruder” in his house armed with a machete. 

What led up to the shooting

A K-9 Unit and multiple patrol units were dispatched; they found and pursued the culprit, dressed only in a towel, fleeing south at the intersection of 23rd Avenue South and South Eddy Street.

While the police blotter refers to the individual as a “burglary suspect,” watching the police footage makes it evident that the towel-clad man was in the midst of a mental breakdown or drug-induced state of crisis — far from a competent burglar, or even one with the slightest intent to get away with his crimes. 

The suspect had begun to stagger southbound on Swift Avenue South, holding his makeshift bathrobe up with one hand while simultaneously clutching two sharp blades and a lime green Swiffer Sweeper mop. He pranced and yelled unintelligibly at the police officers flanking him, with a K-9 handler tailing him in close proximity.

Additional reinforcements arrived as another police SUV drove by, stopping further down the road. At this point, the suspect had no viable escape route besides vaulting into the thick roadside brush wearing only a towel and making a run down South Beacon Hill towards the freeway.

K-9 confrontation
Seattle Police Departmen K-9 confrontation.

Despite this apparent positional advantage held by SPD, the situation quickly devolved into violent chaos as an aggressive police response ensued. The K-9 Unit dog handler, Officer Anthony Ducre, yelled “dog, dog dog!” to alert his fellow officers, and then “take him!” as he released the leash, letting the police dog, K-9 Jedi, bound towards the suspect.

As the dog latched on to his lower body, the suspect, still clutching a household cleaning appliance,  thrust downward with his knife and stabbed K-9 Jedi. The dog was fatally injured, but its jaws remained clamped on the suspect’s leg, causing the man to stumble.

As he fell, he took an off-balance swing in K-9 handler Ducre’s direction. Officer Tim Jones, driver of the backup car that had cut off the suspect’s path, fired his service pistol once before the suspect even hit the ground, then six more times in quick succession: a lethal shooting. 

Public reaction and media coverage

This occurrence received less media coverage than typical for a police shooting. Other than standard reporting by major outlets and commentary from pundits, there was a surprisingly minimal reaction considering how dramatic the event was.

Perhaps this is due to the perceived nature of how things unfolded: an armed man stabbed a police dog and attempted to attack an officer before being shot. However, despite the intensity of the situation, it can be observed that neither the deaths of K-9 Jedi nor the offender were inevitable. 

Considering this, SPD’s public reaction to the event can be put under scrutiny. The president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, Mike Solan, went so far as to state “There is no doubt that [K-9 Jedi] saved the life of his partner yesterday.” The reasoning behind this is hard to grasp. Officer Ducre made a conscious decision to release K-9 Jedi and engage the suspect, who had his back turned, head-on.

The bodycam footage released by SPD offers little insight into what the provocation or final straw was that prompted this move. It’s also worth noting that Officer Ducre had been under investigation by the Office of Police Accountability 11 times from 2015 to 2021, having had multiple allegations of police misconduct against him throughout his career as a K-9 handler. Establishing the context of Ducre’s overly aggressive utilization of his K-9 in the past further calls into question his choice to release K-9 Jedi Jan. 5.

Those who defend SPD’s response have argued that the blame should fall on state legislation limiting police weaponry and tactics. Specifically, House Bill 1054 prevents police in WA state from using large-caliber ammunition, including less-lethal projectiles like 40mm sponge-tipped rounds.

However, the lack of a wider arsenal does not rationalize the decision on Jan. 5 to release a K-9 on a suspect with a bladed weapon. The offender was surrounded and in no position to realistically escape. 

Alternative outcomes

Officers could have deployed tasers, pepper spray projectiles, or another incapacitating weapon to immobilize the suspect. If they had suspected that the suspect’s altered, possibly drug-influenced state would make these weapons ineffective, they still had options at their disposal. If de-escalation tactics failed, officers could have used beanbag ammunition, or even live ammunition, to try to injure and detain the suspect.

Any of these possible alternatives seems preferable to deploying a dog on a knife-wielding individual. 

The dog’s release marked the point of no return: It instantly escalated the situation, physically forcing a defensive reaction from the suspect to avoid the lower half of his body being mauled. The reaction was to use his bladed weapon, desperately stabbing the dog and slashing at Officer Ducre (reportedly causing minor lacerations), before being killed by Officer Jones.

It doesn’t seem unfair to state that a better outcome could have been reached regardless of existing limitations in weaponry. An outcome where the suspect, who was obviously experiencing some sort of psychosis, was apprehended alive and an animal was not killed in service.

This incident is not a case that can be likened to the type of police killings that gripped public interest and spurred massive protests in 2020. It’s far less egregious than SPD’s fatal shootings of John T. Williams or Charleena Lyles, or the Minneapolis Police Department’s recent fatal shooting of Amir Locke.

However, police misconduct of any severity deserves to be examined, especially in a situation resulting in an individual’s death.

An in-depth look at this Beacon Hill shooting reveals unsatisfactory, if not incompetent, police behavior, specifically by Officer Ducre, resulting in two deaths. Given his prior history of misconduct as a K-9 handler (including a case in Tukwila where his dog attacked a bystander despite being leashed, “viciously biting her lower left thigh”), his maintained employment as a Seattle police officer is questionable.

One can hope that SPD’s leadership under Chief Adrian Diaz will learn from all aspects of this regrettable event. To try to avoid similar outcomes in the future, perhaps better situational training for officers could be implemented and the department’s officer retention could be more discerning.

Kayvon Bumpus is the Seattle Collegian's Senior Editor. An avid writer, lifelong musician, and Seattleite, he hopes to use journalism to elucidate and convey varieties of knowledge - a worthwhile endeavor in our current age of distraction and disinformation.

3 Comments

  1. Trevor Ryan 02/24/2022

    I have always worried that we care less about humans and more about animals . I have to be serious here . After killing the dog , though I myself believe that police dogs should be outlawed , does that not in anyway show a violent at the moment view of life , then followed up by using the same blood soaked machete to go for the cop. Certainly not a deaf Native American wood carver.

  2. Howard Gale 02/28/2022

    Great job! Better than any other media outlet in Seattle, notably Seattle Times, Publicola, The Stranger, & Crosscut, who, if they noted the killing initially, have not followed up or even named the person killed.

    Here is a list of people killed by SPD since John T. Williams in 2010, many also in behavioral crisis & wielding edged (or no) weapons: https://hjgale.tumblr.com/post/644261894483492864/killed-by-spd-during-the-decade-after-john-t

    Here is what happens when we ignore these killings/murders: https://hjgale.tumblr.com/post/659996240468180992/accountability-is-possible-for-manuel-ellis

    Contact me via SeattleSTOP.org

    • Kayvon B 03/07/2022

      Thanks Howard, your site’s research and documentation is much appreciated and I’m glad you found the article useful.

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