From [HERE] and [HERE] and [HERE] Relatives of a 36-year-old Samoan man who was shot and killed by a white Seattle police officer on New Year’s Eve are challenging the police account of the deadly encounter, questioning why officers did not try to de-escalate the situation.
“He did not deserve to be slaughtered like an animal in the street,” said Kerina Ngauamo, aunt of Iosia (yoh-see-a) Faletogo, who was killed after a traffic stop on Aurora Avenue North.
Speaking at a news conference on Friday morning, family members focused on the officer body-cam videos released by police on Thursday, which show police chasing Faletogo after he bolted from a traffic stop and his struggle with several officers before he was shot in the head. Some of the videos show a handgun in Faletogo’s hand at one point during the struggle, while others appear to show both of his hands empty, palms flat against the ground, at the time he was shot.
Relatives also repeatedly asked why it took so long for police to notify them of Faletogo’s death and why they had not yet been allowed to see or claim his body.
The Seattle Police Officers Guild, the union representing more than 1,300 officers and sergeants, issued a statement Friday, calling Faletogo a “convicted and violent felon” who repeatedly failed to comply with warnings from officers.
“His refusal to obey their commands escalated the situation and forced the officers to defend themselves,” the statement said.
The video also shows that when the man was shot the gun was no longer in his hand as he struggled with several officers. Cops yelled that he was "reaching" for his weapon during a scuffle, but the gun is later seen on the ground while Faletogo's hands are open and pressed against the sidewalk.
Police said Faletogo was pulled over New Year’s Eve after a license-plate check on the car he was driving showed the registered owner had a suspended driver’s license, according to a source familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is under review. They also saw the driver make an unsafe lane change, prompting them to stop the car, the source said.
No video or audio was released of what went on before the stop.
Video shows he stopped in the parking lot of the Z Food Mart. He's then seen running out of the driver side door and into traffic. A cop ultimately tackled him on a sidewalk.
Faletogo ran from the car and was chased a short distance by officers before he was shot during a struggle.
Relatives questioned why Faletogo was shot in the back of the head when his hands appear to be empty and splayed on the ground in front of him. They also wonder why officers yelled they would shoot Faletogo as he fled, rather than attempt to de-escalate the situation. Why was lethal force, instead of a Taser, used for what started as a seemingly minor driving violation, they asked.
Among those who spoke at the gathering was Andrè Taylor, founder of Not This Time, an advocacy group involved in the passage of a new state law that removed a 32-year-old legal barrier that has made it virtually impossible to bring criminal charges against police officers believed to have wrongfully used deadly force. Initiative 940 also requires de-escalation and mental-health training for police and requires independent investigations into the use of deadly force.
Initiative 940 passed with 59.6 percent of the statewide vote, enacting a requirement that independent bodies investigate police-inflicted killings. The law also removes the "malice" requirement that had to have been proven in order to convict a cop in a fatal incident.
Faletogo’s death is the first officer-involved shooting in King County since the initiative took effect in December, and Taylor said the community “will be watching closely” to see how it’s handled by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.
Taylor is the brother of Che Taylor, who was killed by police while they attempted to arrest him for being a felon in unlawful possession of a firearm in North Seattle in February 2016. The shooting was ruled justified by police.
“This is a department that shoots first and asks questions later,” Taylor said of Seattle police.
Before Faletogo was shot, it appears in the video that he had a gun in his hand during the pursuit and struggle. Officers can be heard yelling “drop the gun,” “you’re going to get shot” and “he’s reaching” while chasing and trying to subdue him.
The video shows that Faletogo went down on his hands and knees as the officers tried to take him into custody and that his hands were empty and fingers splayed out on the ground when the fatal shot was fired.
“It also sounds as if Faletogo said, “I’m not reaching” before he was shot, although the audio isn’t clear on the video.
The officer who fired the shot that killed Faletogo has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into the shooting. He was identified as Jared Keller, who was hired in September 2015.
Keller was one of seven Seattle police officers who fired shots during a fatal confrontation with a man in Magnuson Park on Dec. 12, 2017. The confrontation with Kyle M. Gray, 24, occurred after he and a woman were reportedly involved in an armed robbery at the Northgate Mall, according to police.
Faletogo had cash and drugs on him that was discovered after the shooting, police said, and officers said they recovered a loaded firearm at the scene.
But his family and Taylor said they are rejecting the police’s explanations, justifications and narratives about the shooting.
“Police lie to get out of trouble,” said Taylor.
U.S. District Court records in Alaska indicate that Faletogo was on probation after pleading guilty in June to a federal drug conspiracy out of Juneau.
City officials have said that the shooting will be investigated by the police department’s Force Investigation Team - which is problematic because I-940 calls for independent inquiries.
At issue is not only whether the shooting was justified, but how to investigate it. The Seattle Police Department, bound by a federal consent decree, claims it is required to perform investigations into their own police-involved shootings. It already announced its Force Investigation Team (FIT) would perform its own probe. However, I-940 calls for independent inquiries.
The state Legislature had intended to introduce amendments to I-940 in the 2019 session, including a specific exemption for agencies under consent decree from the independent investigation requirement.
The Seattle Community Police Commission in a letter released Tuesday called for city leaders to clarify the conflict.
"(B)ecause I-940 is in effect and no express exclusion that would apply to Seattle has yet been adopted by the legislature, there is a strong likelihood that members of the public who voted for, organized for or are aware of the I-940 independent investigation requirement will be surprised or troubled to learn that SPD is still, even after voters approved the initiative, using an entirely internal forensic investigation process," the letter read.
King County also runs independent inquests into officer shootings throughout the county with a process it reformed last year to include the victim's family's attorney; the victim's family was previously not allowed to call or question witnesses and the inquests only heard from witnesses called by the officers' attorneys.