A legal organization in Seattle said that interim chief of the Seattle Police Department Harry Bailey’s comments about a recent officer-involved shooting will make it harder for investigators to do their jobs and undermine the troubled department's commitment to reform.
Detective Jon Huber fired two rounds at a man named Mohamed Abdi Jarato after police said he was seen pointing a gun at people in Belltown, Seattle on January 19. Police said they told Jarato to put down his gun and shot him in the buttocks when he refused.
At a press briefing, Bailey was asked to comment on the fact that Jarato was shot while turning away from the officer. “For me it’s not a concern,” Bailey said. “From the briefing I got, when this officer arrived on the scene that suspect was facing him. So if there’s a message at all, it would be, he’s an extremely lucky man that he was shot in the lower extremities as opposed to being dead right now.”
Jarato was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries. The shooting has been seen as a test of SPD’s new policies to monitor and investigate its use of force.
Seattle’s Public Defender Association condemned Bailey’s statement in a letter issued last week. Lawyers said SPD’s commitment to reform “could be undermined” by Bailey’s comments, which appear to “prejudge the investigation” and create, even if unintentionally, an atmosphere where it’s harder for SPD’s investigators to conduct a “free and fair review of the circumstances.”
The association said it has formed no view on whether the shooting was an appropriate use of deadly force by an officer. That’s a determination that will be made by department’s Firearms Review Board. No one at SPD was immediately available to respond to the association’s concerns.
The Seattle Police Department had two officer-involved shootings within two days in January. Andrew Law was fatally shot by police on January 20.