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Was Seattle police officer justified in shooting robbery suspect armed with knife?

Assistant Police Chief Paul McDonagh said Detective James Rodgers, the officer who shot bank robbery suspect Cody Stafford, gave him repeated warnings to drop the knife before he fired. (Image courtesy Seattle Police Department)
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People who knew the sous chef suspected in a bank robbery, shot and killed by a Seattle police officer on Thursday, say they are heartbroken and his life was taken far too soon.

Law enforcement sources identified the man shot as the Walrus and the Carpenter sous chef Cody Spafford. Spafford was suspected of robbing a bank in the Madison Valley, and was shot by an officer in a police pursuit.

The Walrus and the Carpenter was closed Friday night so that employees could spend some time grieving. They've reopened Monday and have also posted an obituary on the restaurant's Facebook page.

Cody Spafford was a beloved member of our family. He was unassuming, gracious, and kind. He was talented and hard working. Cody lifted our spirits and made us laugh. Even now, it is hard to think about Cody without smiling. To know Cody was to love him.

We now understand that in recent months, Cody was privately struggling with addiction. We do not know if something more specific triggered the uncharacteristic and desperate actions Cody took on April 3rd.

Spafford is accused of taking over a Wells Fargo bank on Thursday and then fleeing with a suitcase full of money. Police say he crashed a car in the Madison Valley and was on the lam for about two hours.

Explaining the circumstances of the shooting, Assistant Police Chief Paul McDonagh said Detective James Rodgers, the officer who shot Spafford, gave him repeated warnings to drop the knife he was carrying before he fired.

"After the short dialogue between the detective and the suspect, the suspect charged the detective with the knife in his hand. The detective fired multiple shots from his patrol rifle striking the subject and he went down."

McDonagh said Detective Rodgers had been involved in two previous shootings. Some in the public questioned his use of deadly force in this case, citing the fact that the robbery suspect was allegedly threatening the officer with a knife, not a gun.

"He only had a knife and was hiding in a friggin bush -surrounded by police," said one commenter at The Stranger. "Where was the mental health check? Where was the de-escalation training? Why did the police gunshot have to be a killer gunshot? Why can't we marry police intervention with patience and compassion? Why could there be no chance for Cody? Everyone deserves a chance."

Ron Smith, the President Seattle Police Guild, tells KIRO Radio's Ron and Don Show that even though it's not a gun, a knife is a very deadly weapon.

"Knives are very real and dangerous weapons and they have to be contended with," Smith said.

"I can tell you as a man I would rather be shot with a gun than ran through with a knife. You have a better chance of surviving a gunshot wound, depending on the placement of the round, than you have surviving and edged-weapon attack."

As for the idea that an officer could aim for a non-lethal shot, Smith said he's never encountered that suggestion in any of his training.

"I've been a police officer in one form or another for 26 years. I've never been once taught to shoot anywhere in a non-critical part of the body, because non-critical parts of the body like knees, and fingers and toes, they're very small targets and officers are responsible for every round that comes out of their firearm."

McDonagh also said that responding officers were chasing the suspect with the belief that he was still armed after threatening at least one teller in the bank with a gun. It was later determined to be an Airsoft pellet gun that was actually not on the suspect's person at the time he was shot.

Either way, after follow-up investigations conclude, Smith believes the facts will show that Detective Rodgers had no choice but to shoot Spafford.

"When all the facts are known I believe people will see that Detective Rodgers had no choice to take the actions that he took or be run through with a filet knife."

Smith is sympathetic to those who lost a loved one or friend in Spafford and said it's unfortunate.

"Nobody wants to take a life," he said, "but then again nobody expects to go to work and have your life threatened by somebody who just robbed a bank, has a gun and is running toward you."

Related:
Bank robbery suspect Seattle police fatally shot was chef

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Whether it's floating on Green Lake, eating shrimp tacos at Agua Verde, or taking weekend drives out to the Cascades, she loves to enjoy the Pacific Northwest lifestyle as much as humanly possible.

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