JASON RANTZ

Rantz: Victim died as medics waited for critically understaffed Seattle Police to arrive to scene

May 15, 2022, 2:00 PM | Updated: May 16, 2022, 4:29 pm
(Seattle Police Department)...
(Seattle Police Department)
(Seattle Police Department)

Due to critically low staffing, Seattle Police were unable to quickly respond to a deadly hit and run as medics waited to be cleared to treat the victim.

To be clear, multiple sources said the victim would have died no matter how soon police were able to arrive. But no one appeared to have known that at the time and medics were not permitted to get to the victim until the officers arrived.

This is the latest incident highlighting the dangers of the department’s staffing crisis.

Rantz: Did Seattle councilmembers abuse police help, while defunding department?

The delayed response

A teenage driver accidentally struck a pedestrian in West Seattle on May 7. Panicked, the unidentified driver fled, but multiple passers-by reported the collision to 911 operators.

During at least one of the 911 reports, a caller said someone had been shot on the scene. That triggers a different protocol for the Seattle Fire Department. Under its Scenes of Violence policy, SFD staff may not approach the scene until it is secured by police.

The first assigned SFD unit arrived at 10:05 pm — only two minutes after the call came in. But the unit was put on standby at a nearby staging location and waited for police to arrive and secure the scene. But cops didn’t make it to the scene until 10:16 pm, some  12-14 minutes after the witness said there was a gunshot.

After SPD secured the scene, SFD tended to the victim, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

It turns out there was no gunshot, so it was ultimately unnecessary for SFD to stage before tending to the victim. The teenage driver allegedly drove home to a parent, explained what happened, and then drove back to the scene and is cooperating with police. The driver is not believed to have been impaired.

Every minute matters

It’s unclear when the victim died, but a source explains SFD suspects it was upon impact. But this incident highlights consequences of the SPD staffing crisis. Had the victim not died on impact, he likely would have died because of the delayed response time.

In cases of blunt trauma, you have about ten minutes to transport the victim to the hospital for treatment. Every minute that goes by increases the likelihood of death. If police cannot arrive on the scene quick enough to maximize a victim’s chance of survival — or quick enough to stop a crime in progress — it’s an obvious problem.

In November ’21, a boy watched as his father die because understaffed police could not arrive fast enough to secure the scene for medics to help. The death resulted in a lawsuit against the city.

This is not the fault of the SPD or SFD. They are in a position that they did not cause. A stubbornly anti-police Seattle City Council did irreparable damage to the department with defunding and demonizing.

There are countless crises that can be avoided with a fully staffed SPD. With only about 880 deployable staff and another 17 officers leaving the department in April (for a year-to-date total of 60 separations), those crises seem inevitable.

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Rantz: Victim died as medics waited for critically understaffed Seattle Police to arrive to scene