So Far SPD's Civilian Watchdog Finds 'No Basis' To Refer Che Taylor Shooting To Prosecutors | KUOW News and Information

So Far SPD's Civilian Watchdog Finds 'No Basis' To Refer Che Taylor Shooting To Prosecutors

Mar 3, 2016

Officials at the Seattle Police Department and its civilian oversight office say so far, they have found no basis for criminal prosecution of police officers Michael Spaulding and Scott Miller in the shooting of Che Taylor on Feb. 21.

Protesters have been calling for a criminal investigation into the circumstances of his death.

Police said Taylor was reaching for a handgun as they approached him in Northeast Seattle last month.

Protesters and family members have condemned Taylor’s death, which Seattle-King County NAACP President Gerald Hankerson called “coldblooded murder.” They said police issued contradictory commands as they approached Taylor in the video released by SPD.

The shooting comes as the Seattle Police Department is overhauling its “use of force” policies under a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department.

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole has promised an update within 30 days of the shooting, although the investigators on SPD's Force Investigation Team typically have 90 days to complete their work.

Pierce Murphy heads Seattle’s Office of Professional Accountability, which investigates police misconduct. Murphy said his staff visited the scene of the shooting and they have been monitoring the investigation.  He said his role is to "evaluate whether I see indications of a criminal act," often in the initial hours after an officer's use of force.

At this point, "I have not seen a basis for referral, nor has SPD," Murphy said. If investigators have “reasonable suspicion” of a criminal act, he said, they would refer the case to prosecutors.

Detectives and other SPD officials can also refer cases for potential criminal charges against officers. SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb gave the example of last year's police shooting of Walter Scott in North Charles, S.C.

Whitcomb said police referred that case to prosecutors because there was "clear evidence right from the start" of police misconduct. That officer was ultimately charged with murder. 

The 2010 shooting of woodcarver John T. Williams by a Seattle police officer was not referred to prosecutors. The internal investigation found the shooting "unjustified" and not within SPD policies. Officer Ian Birk resigned before he could be fired, and the city ultimately agreed to a settlement with Williams' family for $1.5 million.