Inquest Jury Issues Findings In July Officer-Involved Shooting on Beacon Hill

On April 9th, 2015 an inquest jury found that a Seattle police officer believed he was in imminent danger when he killed a man armed with a realistic-looking pellet gun last July.

The inquest, ordered by county Executive Dow Constantine, was a fact-finding hearing on the July 1 shooting death of 36-year-old Austin Derby.

The Renton man led state troopers on a late-night, high speed chase on Interstate 5, then ditched his truck on a residential street and hid in the back yard shed of a Beacon Hill home.

Seattle Police Officer Jason Tucker was with a K-9 search team when he spotted Derby in the shed. Tucker ordered Derby to come out, but he refused and yelled “I’ve got a pistol, too.” When Derby aimed a pistol at Tucker, the officer fired several shots, killing him.

Derby’s weapon later turned out to be a pellet gun. The suspect had removed the barrel’s orange tip that would indicate he had an Airsoft pistol.

The eight King County District Court jury members, who began deliberations on April 6th, were unanimous in determining Officer Tucker believed Derby posed an imminent threat of death or serious injury to the officer or others.

After the conclusion of testimony, the judge asked jurors to answer 30 questions (PDF) — including whether Darby led police on a high-speed pursuit and had narcotics in his system. After deliberation, inquest jurors unanimously concurred on 29 of the 30 questions about the facts surrounding the shooting. Two of the eight jurors said they did not know whether Derby was holding an object resembling a gun when he was shot by Officer Tucker. However, all the jurors agreed Derby posed a threat.

The jury relied on information collected by the Seattle Police Department’s new Force Investigation Team, FIT, which was created as part of a U.S. Department of Justice agreement with the city of Seattle to help address concerns over use of force by SPD. This is one of the first officer involved shootings probed by the team.

As part of its three-month investigation, FIT detectives took statements from more than 100 people including Seattle police officers, firefighters and state troopers who responded to the scene, as well residents who lived near where the shooting took place.

Investigators also combed through several hundred hours of video taken by SPD patrol cars, state troopers and a Washington State Patrol observation plane that that circled overhead throughout the incident. Almost every second was documented, either by video or audio.

The investigation showed that Tucker had little time to react. Only 40 seconds elapsed from the time Tucker realized someone was in the shed, to when Derby pointed a gun at the officer.

Top Amazon Exec to be SPD’s New Chief Information Officer

The Seattle Police Department has recruited a top Amazon executive to boost the department’s technological prowess and find new ways to fight crime through data analysis.

Greg Russell, an Amazon vice president who oversaw the company’s corporate applications, enterprise data warehouse and IT, will start work at the police department on March 17 as its chief information officer.

SPD’s public affairs office interviewed Russell on Friday to discuss his views on technology, ask why he wants to work in law enforcement — and see if he liked RoboCop.

Russell, 46, was born and raised in Scotland. He first came to the U.S. in 1995 to work for Jabil Circuit in Florida. He later ended up in California working for Cisco Systems and then took a job at Amazon as its chief information officer in 2011. He lives on Bainbridge Island.

At SPD, he’ll work on data analytics, finding new ways to track and potentially predict crime by sorting through vast amounts of crime data. He’ll also be in charge of IT for the department and will work on other challenges such as the body worn video pilot project.

Taking the job at SPD is a way to give something back to his adoptive county, Russell said, noting he became a U.S. citizen last March.

Russell said he enjoyed working with highly talented Amazon employees. “But, really, (at Amazon) what I’m doing is helping ship brown boxes across the universe,” he said. “I wanted the opportunity to give something back.”

Here are excerpts from the conversation, with edits for clarity:

Q: How does Seattle’s weather compare to Scotland’s?

A: “It’s very similar. But you get a summer here. In Scotland you can’t be guaranteed of a summer. I like the change in seasons. I don’t think it rains that much. Maybe it’s because I’m Scottish.”

Q: Outside of work, do you have hobbies?

“Yes, I play guitar badly, electric and acoustic. I like to read, I’ve got a couple of dogs, and I like to cook.”

Q: I understand Amazon is big on robots. Do you see robots in SPD’s future?

A: “Maybe,” Russell said laughing. “That’s a good idea, actually.”

Q: Have you seen Robocop?

A: “I did actually. It’s a good movie,” he said, adding on a more serious note, “I think technology should enhance what the police force is doing. It doesn’t replace what they’re doing. You won’t ever replace the brain power of detectives figuring out what happened. But, how do you use technology to eliminate the inefficiencies? That’s what we’re looking at.”

Q: What drew you away from Amazon? Law enforcement is quite a change.

A: “Prior to Amazon, I worked in manufacturing. So, I worked for companies that built (electronics) which helped drive technology forward. A cynic would say I spent a lot of time building things that end up in a toxic waste dump somewhere. It’s not that satisfying, really. Amazon was a fabulous company to be at. I learned so much. That’s the smartest team I’ve ever worked with. It grew me as an individual. But, really, what I’m doing is helping ship brown boxes across the universe. Is that useful to the world? I wanted the opportunity to give something back.

“This is a huge opportunity to simplify law enforcement. So take away all the inefficiencies that detectives and police officers have to deal with so they can get to the real thing, which is solving crime. Eliminate the nonsense. It feels like a good opportunity to kind of reinvent how you do law enforcement. Chief (Kathleen) O’Toole has been adamant that she wants to set the bar for technology. For me, that’s exciting.”

Q: Privacy concerns are big in Seattle. How do you see the balance between technology and privacy?

A: “You have to understand what information you can’t share … But beyond that, the more transparent you can be with information, the better. If you can show the public that you’re sharing the good news and the bad news, you become more trustworthy … My understanding is that we have a lot of data, we just can’t really make it available. It’s not that we don’t want to. It’s just that we don’t know how to.

“What’s important for me to understand is what we can and cannot share based on privacy. I don’t quite understand that yet. So that would be number one, to understand what I cannot share. And then the rest of it, I think if you can just make it available through a public-facing web site and tell people where it is, that’s step one.”

Q: Is there reason to worry about the big brother aspect of technology and data mining?

A: “There will always be worries about what you’re going to do with the information. If you’re are transparent with how you’re going to use the information ,and you make sure people can actually see it, I think most people will accept that.”

Q: For you, what does transparency mean?

A: “Transparency to me means you’re being brutally honest with the information. You’re not trying to sway it one way or the other. The data is the data. You’re just making it available.”

Police Investigate Possible Luring Incident in South Park

Policing are investigating a possible luring incident in the South Park neighborhood where a man followed around a 14-year-old girl, who was waiting for a school bus Wednesday morning.

The girl told police she was by herself at the bus stop around 8:30 AM when a man in an older, four-door car with dull silver paint pulled up and began asking questions like, “what are you doing,” and “where are you going.”

The man repeatedly followed the girl in his car after she became nervous and walked away from the bus stop a couple of times. The suspect eventually turned around and the girl got on the school bus and called police. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call 911.

Officers Pull Over Suspected DUI Driver, Find Teen Behind the Wheel of Stolen SUV

When East Precinct patrol officers spotted a Chevy Suburban weaving its way down Madison Street on Capitol Hill early Monday, officers expected to find an intoxicated driver behind the wheel.

Instead, when police pulled the car over near 15th Avenue and Madison Street, they found a 16-year-old in the drivers seat of the SUV, which had been reported stolen.

The 16-year-old driver, who claimed some “random guy” had given her the vehicle, was arrested and booked into the Youth Services Center on a stolen property charge.

A teenage passenger, who told police she’d never seen her friend driving the car before, was taken to the Spruce Street Secure Crisis Residential Center

Police Cork Wine-Soused Prowling Suspects

Police arrested two men early Monday who broke into a pickup truck in Downtown Seattle after consuming a half-gallon of red wine.

Officers got a call about the car prowl at 5th Avenue and Columbia Street around 1:30 AM on Monday. They arrived to find the owner of a truck standing outside the driver’s window confronting two men inside. The car prowlers had apparently slid open the back window and climbed into the truck while the owner was away.

The owner returned to find his truck occupied. The men inside refused to get out, until police arrived. The prowlers, who’d ransacked the truck’s glove box, were arrested. One of suspects told police that after drinking the wine, he thought “it would be fun” to break into a vehicle.

One suspect was taken to a hospital for treatment of a pre-existing condition. The other was booked into King County Jail for vehicle prowling.