The Bellevue police chief apologized to residents of Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood where a Bellevue SWAT team killed a man last month while trying to arrest a robbery suspect.
Chief Linda Pillo told a community meeting in the Columbia City neighborhood Monday night that officers didn’t want the search warrant action to end as it did.
“The officers are very sorry, it shouldn’t have gone the way that it did,” Pillo said at a community meeting. “The suspect’s action created a reaction.”
The suspect, Russell Smith, was killed March 22 and residents awoke to the sounds of screams, gunfire and an explosion.
Seattle Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith asked, “Would Bellevue PD have served a warrant in the same way in Bellevue that they did in Columbia City?”
Residents, at times, jeered during the meeting at the explanations for the Bellevue Police Department.
SWAT teams kept streets closed for hours, and some residents said they were angry that they weren’t better informed about the police activity happening on their streets.
One woman, Denise, said she was driving her children to Orca Elementary School and passed several SWAT teams on the way. She asked why the school wasn’t locked down if the situation warranted such a large police presence.
“We should have done a hell of a lot of a better job of letting you, the community know that there was no longer a danger,” explained Interim Chief Jim Pugel. “The reason we had to continue the road blocks was because of evidentiary rules. That is no excuse for me or any other Seattle police employee to not explain to you what happened. It’s no excuse for me not getting a hold of the Seattle School District to let them know that things were OK. We will do better next time.”
Bellevue police continue to defend their actions. The police shooting is still being reviewed.
Pillo said she will look at expediting the process for the suspect’s brother, Rydell Smith, to apply to get his house repaired. It was damaged during the incident.
Ron & Don producer Libby Denkmann and the Associated Press contributed to this report.