Gee: Questions linger after SPD’s video of a fatal shooting
I’m so torn after watching body cam video of a fatal officer-involved shooting in Seattle. This video is one of the hardest things I have ever seen. Not just because of its content. Not just because someone died. Usually, when I see videos like this, I can come to a definite conclusion — yes, or no, right or wrong. I can’t easily do that here.
This is a video that I cannot come away with a strong position on. I asked a police friend of mine, who has more than 20 years experience, and he finds it difficult to come to a conclusion, too. There are a few things I think we can all say: Iosia Faletogo lost his life and I wish he did not die. And we can be thankful that the Seattle Police Department, very quickly, published this video online for all to see.
I know it’s easy for someone to say, “Oh, criminal. Shoot them. Dead.” That is unfortunate that anybody would have that frame of thought. It would also be reckless for me to point the blame at the Seattle Police Department. I can’t do that either.
A brief synopsis
The reason they stopped this man is because they ran the license plate, and records showed his license was suspended. Faletogo then pulled over into the parking lot of a market. While a few cops parked behind him. On video, they can be heard talking about whether he had warrants. Faletogo can then be seen jumping out of his car and running away. The police officers told him to stop and stay in the car, he ignored them.
During the chase, you can hear police yell at Faletogo. You can hear the cops say, “Stop reaching for your waistband, you’re going to get shot.” They said multiple times, “You’re going to get shot.”
The chase stopped when police took Faletogo to the ground. You can see on the video that a gun falls on the ground next to Faletogo as cops wrestle with him. Police continue to tell him to stop struggling, fighting, and reaching for the gun, or else he will get shot.
“Drop the gun, you’re going to get shot, you’re going to get shot!”
There is a moment when officers called for a TASER. But none was produced.
There is a moment when you hear someone, likely Faletogo, say “I’m not reaching.” But that statement is cut short by the sound of a gunshot.
Later police found out that the gun Faletogo allegedly had was stolen.
Your opinion will be confirmed by this video
If you go into this video already with an opinion on the matter, this video will confirm that opinion. It doesn’t matter what that opinion is, you will get what you are looking for.
If you are someone who says, “Well, he should not have been reaching for the gun.” You’re going to get that if you watch this.
Or if you have a preconceived notion that cops are generally in the right, this video is not going to change that.
If you are someone who believes, even before seeing this video, that the cops are in the wrong and this guy should not have died, you’re going to get that as well.
In the video, he’s reaching for the gun, but I don’t see him grab the gun. They had a gun to Faletogo’s neck at the time, they are all struggling, you seem him reaching for the gun, but you don’t see him get his hands on the trigger.
On the other side of that, everyone knows that cops can use force to respond to force.
Questions are still unanswered
We are all going to have to wait until the full investigation is completed. That’s hard, because there are so many questions lingering:
What was the story about the TASER? A police officer was yelling “TASER, TASER, TASER!”
Were they going to use a TASER? Were they asking someone to use a TASER?
My friend — the cop with 20 years on the force — told me that when an officer says that, it usually means they are about to use a TASER on a suspect. Maybe it means for other officers to watch out for the shock. That didn’t happen here.
You can even hear Iosia say he’s not reaching for the gun. That’s the moment he gets shot. What made that officer shoot? And others didn’t? We might never find out.