King County Executive Dow Constantine is hitting pause on all inquests into fatal shootings by law enforcement officers.
Inquests are fact-finding proceedings to determine what led up to a fatality. But they do not establish liability. The process has faced criticism by family members who say it is biased in favor of police.
The directive by Constantine follows a decision by King County District Court Presiding Judge Donna Tucker on Monday to not appoint a District Court Judge to preside over future inquests. “I want to make sure that we are treating everyone fairly, so we wanted to wait until we knew what the rules would be moving forward,” Constantine said.
Late last year Constantine convened a committee to examine the inquest process. And changes could be on the way. Many families of those killed by police have asked for greater involvement with inquests, including legal representation.
Attorney Jeff Campiche represents the family of Tommy Le, who was shot and killed by King County Sherriff’s Deputies in June of 2017. The inquest into Le’s death is one of five proceedings now on hold.
Campiche says the family is heartened by the delay, but will keep fighting for an equal voice in the examination of their son’s death that gives them “the right to present evidence that may contradict the sheriff’s department’s internal investigation.”
Le was shot and killed by a Deputy responding to a disturbance. King County Police Deputy Cesar Molina apparently believed that Le was armed with a knife. It turned out it was a pen.
The King County Medical Examiner's report shows Le died from two shots to the back. He was also shot in the back of one hand. Campiche said that report conflicts with police reports that Le was shot in self-defense after advancing on two deputies with a pen.