‘He was moving towards us’: Seattle officer describes fatal shooting near The Jungle
Michael Taylor, who was fatally shot by a Seattle police sergeant last Oct. 11. (Seattle Police Department/Seattle Police Department)
Sgt. Heidi Tuttle’s description of the fatal shooting of Michael Taylor on Oct. 11 is contained in a newly disclosed Seattle Police Department report, and provides the most detailed account yet of the altercation.
A Seattle police sergeant who fatally shot a 44-year-old man near The Jungle homeless camp in October told investigators the man was armed with a knife and appeared to be assessing whether to lunge toward her or another officer who was with her, according to a newly disclosed report.
Sgt. Heidi Tuttle’s description of the Oct. 11 encounter is contained in a voluminous Seattle Police Department report submitted to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The office released the report to The Seattle Times under a public-records request.
Because no patrol-car cameras captured the shooting in woods near The Jungle, the report prepared by the Police Department’s Force Investigation Team (FIT) provides the most detailed account yet of the altercation.
The submission of the report cleared the way for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg to recommend that county Executive Dow Constantine call for an inquest into the shooting. Constantine ordered the inquest in King County District Court, a normal step after an officer-involved killing in the county. No date has been set.
After the inquest, Satterberg will decide whether a criminal charge should be brought against Tuttle.
The Police Department’s Force Review Board is currently reviewing the shooting to determine whether it fell within department policy.
Tuttle and Capt. Eric Greening, commander of the South Precinct, had been participating in the removal of residents from the troubled camp when they encountered Taylor and another man fighting on the ground in an area just east of Airport Way South and South Stacy Street.
A state Department of Transportation worker participating in the operation under and alongside Interstate 5 was yelling at the men, saying “stop” and “put the knife down,” according to Tuttle’s account in the FIT report.
With Greening next to her, Tuttle told investigators, she instructed the worker to move out of the way and, along with Greening, ordered the men to stop fighting.
After Greening separated the two, Taylor stood with what looked like a steak knife, according to Greening’s and Tuttle’s accounts.
Tuttle said Taylor ignored multiple commands from both officers to drop the knife and switched it from his left hand to right, which Tuttle assumed to be his strong hand.
Taylor then looked between the officers, apparently “assessing which one he wanted to lunge towards … ,” Tuttle told investigators.
Tuttle said Taylor turned toward her and “then the top of his body I remember moving towards us when he was saying that he, um, wasn’t gonna put the knife down. Um, I don’t distinctly remember steps. Um, I just remember he was, physically it felt like he was moving towards us.”
Afraid Greening was “gonna get stabbed” because of where he was standing, Tuttle told investigators, she fired her handgun three times at Taylor.
Tuttle said she didn’t have a clear option to cover or conceal herself because of the “uneven ground and greenery” behind her and, in part, because changing her line of sight could pose a safety risk.
Greening told investigators he had drawn his handgun and had it at a ready position.
Taylor ignored commands and went into a “bladed stance” and a “rocking motion,” like he’s “ready to jump, so to speak,” Greening said.
Greening explained he didn’t feel comfortable backing up because of the uncertain footing.
Taylor made clear he was “serious, he’s not going anywhere and he showed absolutely no fear of us at all,” Greening told investigators.
The other man involved in the fight, who was treated for a knife wound to his hand, told investigators that Taylor, while 7 to 8 feet from the officers, took three to four steps toward them before Tuttle fired.
The transportation worker told investigators Greening twice yelled — “really loud” — drop the knife.
Tuttle yelled “Put the knife down” as Taylor kept walking toward the officers, the worker said, adding that Taylor was 8 to 10 feet away from the officers when the shots were fired.
Police earlier released two photos of the knife, which had a blade of about 4½ inches in length.
Taylor’s father, Larry Taylor, said in an October interview that his son was adopted from South Korea nearly 40 years ago. He described his son as having a “good heart,” but that he needed more information about the shooting before drawing conclusions.
Taylor said his son had worked in manual labor periodically, was married long ago but had no children, had drug and alcohol problems and had lived on the streets at times.
He could not be reached for comment on the police report.
Court records show Michael Taylor had a lengthy criminal history, including convictions for unlawful use of a weapon to intimidate another, harassment, property destruction and obstructing a public servant.