1. In a report released on Thursday afternoon, Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) ruled that Seattle Police Department SWAT officer Noah Zech acted within policy when he shot and killed 24-year-old Shaun Fuhr in South Seattle last April.
On the afternoon of April 29, a woman called 911 to report that Fuhr, while drunk, had violated a protection order, beaten her, and abducted their 1-year-old daughter at gunpoint from Rainier Playfield in Columbia City. When police arrived on the scene, the woman told the officers that her daughter’s life was in danger.
A SWAT team and patrol officers from the South Precinct mounted a search for Fuhr in the nearby Mount Baker neighborhood, following civilian tips and Fuhr’s cell phone location. After a brief chase, during which Fuhr ran with his daughter tucked under his arm, the officers cornered him in a fenced backyard, still carrying his daughter.
Within seconds, Zech shot Fuhr in the head; he collapsed and dropped his daughter, who was uninjured. According to the OPA report, the officers then discovered that Fuhr had abandoned his gun during the pursuit; he was unarmed when Zehr shot and killed him.
Based on body-worn video footage of the incident, the OPA’s investigators concluded that Zech could not see Fuhr’s right hand and believed he was still carrying a gun. For that reason, and because of Fuhr’s “prior violence, repeated non-compliance, and dangerous physical handling of the child,” SPD investigators and OPA director Andrew Myerberg decided that “no further de-escalation was safe or feasible.”
SPD leadership has since maintained that Zech acted primarily out of concern for the child’s safety. Brandy Grant, the executive director of Seattle’s Community Police Commission, argued otherwise on Thursday afternoon, writing in a press release that “in no world should it be acceptable to shoot someone when they have their baby in their arms.”
According to the OPA’s report, when an SPD detective contacted Fuhr’s former partner about the shooting, she, too, expressed anger that an officer fired at Fuhr while he held their child. She also asserted that Zech, who is white, shot Fuhr because he was Black.
Additionally, the woman—who remains anonymous—alleged that SPD’s victim support advocate offered her a $100 gift card and “advised her to stay out of Seattle” to avoid retaliation from Fuhr’s family, who she said were harassing her. PubliCola has contacted SPD to confirm the details of that interaction.
While she declined to give a formal statement to the OPA, Fuhr’s former partner told the OPA that she intended to file a lawsuit against SPD. Though “she did not believe the officers were completely at fault,” she told OPA investigators that she “wanted the police to help [Fuhr], not kill him.”
2. Kate Martin, a neighborhood activist who is well on her way to perennial-candidate status, could fall afoul of Seattle’s rules for collecting democracy vouchers if she continues to pursue separate campaigns for mayor and City Council Position 8. (PubliCola first reported on Martin’s dual-campaign strategy—she actually filed to run for Position 8 twice—a couple of weeks ago). On her campaign page (“Mandate tidiness”; “Prosecute radical rioters”), Martin encourages supporters to donate to one or both of her campaigns, and says she’ll decide which one to move forward with before the filing deadline of May 21.
No one has attempted to run for more than one office in the same election cycle under Seattle’s public campaign-finance rules, which allow voters to allocate public campaign funds to candidates who collect a qualifying number of contributions, with signatures, from Seattle residents. (For mayoral candidates, the qualifying number is 600; for at-large races, it’s 400).
But a similar hypothetical did come before the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission last year, when SEEC director Wayne Barnett wrote a memo titled “Musical Chairs” posing the question: What would happen if a city council member collected contributions for a reelection bid, then decided at the last minute she wanted to run for mayor?
Asked about the potential conundrum Martin’s run poses, Barnett said only, “I suspect this will end up before the full Commission.” And while Martin’s race(s) present mostly a theoretical dilemma (she has raised no money so far, and raised less than $10,000 in her last race for mayor, in 2013), her decision to seek two races at once raises questions the ethics commission will need to resolve.
3. One quote raised the hopes of progressives Thursday and one raised their ire.
Senator June Robinson told reporters Thursday she would pass whatever amended version of the capital gains tax (SB 5096) the House sends back to the Senate—a possible message to House Democrats that she was open to restoring the emergency clause.
As we’ve reported, the emergency clause would make the legislation invulnerable to a voter referendum, although it could still be canceled by initiative.
“We will pass whatever the house sends back to us,” Sen. Robinson, the bill’s original sponsor, said during a press conference.
Representative Noel Frame (D-36, Seattle), chair of the House Finance committee, told PubliCola on March 7, the day after the bill passed the senate, that she had no plans to add the emergency clause back on because it would slow the process of getting the bill passed. We have a call in to her to see if Robinson’s green light changes her calculus.
Meanwhile, in the Senate Health and Long-term Care committee Wednesday morning, Senator Ann Rivers (R-18, La Center) said senators and legislators would have to be “retarded” to think public health would not receive funding this year.
“The use of the ‘R’ word by Sen. Rivers at a public hearing was harmful, disheartening, and should not be tolerated,” Executive Director of Disability Rights Washington Mark Stroh told PubliCola in an email. “It makes it that much more difficult for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to perceive the Legislature as a welcoming place where their right to participate in public policy development is respected and encouraged.”
Sen. Rivers sent an apology via email, writing, “even though I used those words to refer to members of the legislature, and no one else, I immediately regretted that I didn’t find a better way to express myself about a subject that is very important to me. I am deeply sorry and sincerely hope that anyone who was offended will forgive me.”