MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Seattle police officers given 9 hour suspensions after slow shooting response

Feb 20, 2024, 4:55 PM | Updated: Feb 21, 2024, 5:42 am

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An SPD vehicle. (Image courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Image courtesy of KIRO 7)

UPDATED 2/20 4:55 p.m. — Two Seattle police officers have been disciplined in connection with their slow response to a shooting at the Showbox SODO in Seattle in December 2022.

It has been confirmed that Seattle Police Department Chief Adrian Diaz agreed and issued the officers 1-day/9-hour suspensions.

ORIGINAL STORY 

A recently completed and released report from Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) revealed two Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers took more than 20 minutes to get to a shooting scene one mile away in late 2022.

The shooting happened Dec. 18, 2022 near the Showbox in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood with the 911 call coming in around 1:26 a.m., according to KIRO 7 and DivestSPD, a self-proclaimed police watchdog that publishes on Substack. That report also shows the shooting call is a “priority one” call.

According to the OPA report, the officers said they were on their way one minute later, at 1:27 a.m. But GPS data from patrol cars shows they didn’t start driving for another 22 minutes, arriving at the scene at 1:50 and 1:51 a.m. That report indicates the shooting call was a “Priority One” call. (The OPA report can be found here.)

KIRO 7 and DivestSPD reported the officers involved were Clark Dickson and Jason Atofau. They were at the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) building when they received the initial call. According to the OPA report, one of the officers couldn’t recall what he was doing at the time of the call, but suggested he was either using the restroom, eating or sitting his car writing reports.

At 1:54 a.m., the report states that the officers marked it as a disturbance with no victims or suspects arrested. DivestSPD noted that two hours later, the victim of the shooting arrived at Harborview Medical Center with an injury to his arm.

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A student officer in training with Dickson and Atofau at the time acted as a witness and stated to the OPA he remembered that, after receiving the call, he and his training officer, “…didn’t move hastily.”

When asked by OPA about the 22-minute response time the training officer delivered a pointed response.

“(It) makes me feel like we dropped the ball. We should have done more,” the officer said. “(It) doesn’t make me feel good. (It feels) like (there) definitely should have been some exigency behind that. Because lives could have been more in danger than they were.”

According to the OPA report, one of the officers told the agency that circumstances about the call led him to believe it wasn’t a priority, and that they didn’t find any evidence of the shooting anyway.

So, in this call, I received information that it was shots fired, yes. I also received updates of the — the involved parties were leaving the scene. And then I also saw an update, something about the complainant — if I recall right, the complainant just saw a flash of a gun, and then he saw something that looked like blood.

And in my 17 years of patrol work, generally, when I get that information, for me, the exigency of responding kind of declines, even though it is categorized as like a priority one, and in my experience, most of the time, when I’ve shown up, there’s been no victim. And that’s exactly what happened that night. We showed up. We didn’t find a scene. We didn’t find any shell casings.

OPA responded by acknowledging that officers should be “afforded reasonable discretion to prioritize calls” and they should also be allowed to take breaks to eat meals and/or use the restroom.

“However, taking 22 minutes and 23 minutes to transition from a non-emergency activity … to respond to a priority one gunshot call is unacceptable,” the report reads. “Similarly, (the officer’s) suggestion that his response time did not impact the available evidence is unacceptable.”

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Response to the report

“It’s egregious,” Donna Kelly, the chair of the African American Community Advisory Council, said, according to KIRO 7. “With there being such a high risk of additional deaths and that shooter still being on the loose. The fact that evidence could have been moved around or lost.”

Kelly added that an officer in training speaking up is why she still has hope for the future of SPD.

“We can kind of see there’s a change in the officers that are now being deployed on the streets so that’s the positive part of it,” she said.

Looking at the punishment

OPA’s report proposed a suspension of 1 to 3 days (9 to 27 hours) for the officers after the allegations of misconduct were “sustained.” A suspension of 1 day/9 hours was imposed.

The report also notes that while OPA is part of the discipline committee, the Seattle chief of police “decides the imposed discipline, if any.”

It is not known if the officers have yet served that suspension. SPD told KIRO 7 a Public Disclosure Request was needed to learn if those suspensions had been served.

Contributing: KIRO 7, Bill Kaczaraba, MyNorthwest

Steve Coogan is the lead editor of My Northwest. You can read more of his stories here. Follow Steve on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email him here.

You can read more of Sam Campbell’s stories here. Follow Sam Campbell on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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Seattle police officers given 9 hour suspensions after slow shooting response