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Seattle police officer who stopped ax-man faces suspension

(File, KIRO 7)
LISTEN: Policeman who stopped ax man without violence suspended

A Seattle police officer who successfully stopped a man with an ax, without use-of-force, now faces a suspension for “failure to de-escalate.”

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As KOMO 4 News’ Joel Moreno originally reported, Seattle Police Officer Nick Guzley could receive a two-day suspension without pay on the recommendation of his supervisor.

Seattle Police Guild President Kevin Stuckey told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that a man stole an ice ax from the REI in South Lake Union, threatened employees with it, and then went out on the street, where he was was followed by police officers. After several blocks, the ax-man was getting close to an area where many business people were eating lunch — and where the results could be disastrous.

“We’re getting close, where we have to make a decision here,” Stuckey said.

When the man looked away for a moment, Officer Guzley took the opportunity to act. He wrapped the ax-man in a bear hug and tackled him, bringing the heart-stopping situation to an end without a weapon.

“The man was not tazed, there was no use of force, no one had to use a weapon,” Stuckey said.

Seattle Police Officer Kevin Stuckey with two valuable comic books he gave away to a 12-year-old as part of a drawing. (Seattle Police Department)

Stuckey explained that police officers are always instructed to use “the minimum amount of force” required to stop a threatening situation. The Seattle Police Guild named Guzley its Officer of the Month to commend his actions.

However, Guzley’s supervisor felt differently, and filed a formal complaint against the officer for failing to de-escalate the situation.

“I don’t think he could’ve done anything differently … Personally, I don’t see any misconduct at all,” Stuckey said.

Stuckey can only guess at what Guzley’s supervisor found wrong.

“Maybe they thought he didn’t have a plan, that it was too sudden … that he didn’t notify everybody,” Stuckey said.

Stuckey explained that in the law enforcement world, de-escalation means that an officer is “giving space, time, distance to come up with a better solution.”

But, as Stuckey pointed out, with the ax-man heading straight into an area full of people eating lunch, this was a “situation where you don’t have that time … where were going into an area where there were innocent people.”

“The last thing we want to do is put someone in jeopardy second-guessing,” Stuckey said.

The job of a police officer in this day and age is not easy, Stuckey said, and the department is struggling to find enough people willing to take on the dangerous but incredibly important work.

“We are almost in a crisis,” Stuckey said. “We can’t find people who want to do the job anymore.”

However, officers remain dedicated to their mission to keep residents safe.

“We’re going to continue to do our jobs the best way we know how, we’re going to continue to serve this city,” Stuckey said.

 

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