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5-day suspension announced for detective who pulled gun on motorcyclist

Video from a motorcyclist shows a King County Sheriff's detective pulling a gun on him during a recent traffic stop in Shoreline. (Photo taken from video)

SEATTLE - King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht announced Monday a five-day suspension without pay for a detective who was caught on camera last summer pointing a gun at a motorcyclist during a traffic stop.

In a news conference, Johanknecht said she was disappointed in Detective Sgt. Richard Rowe's behavior during the traffic stop - including poor firearm handling, yelling, swearing and failure to immediately identify himself as a deputy in plain clothes.

But she defended Rowe's decision to pull out his sidearm in the first place, because he said the motorcyclist, Alex Randall, made a gesture that caused the detective to believe he may have had a gun in his waistband. In fact, Randall did not have a firearm.

Randall, reacting to the announcement of the five-day suspension, said Rowe was lying when he claimed he thought Randall had a gun.

"It's really concerning that you're going to equate somebody lying about their pointing a gun at somebody, lying about the fact that he thought I had a weapon ... these are just absolutely ludicrous things that are demonstrably important to what happened," Randall said.

Randall has previously said he would sue if Rowe wasn't fired.

Records show that Detective Rowe, 53, stopped Randall for reckless driving on Aug. 16, 2017.

Randall had a helmet cam rolling on the entire incident. It showed that Rowe was not in uniform and pointed a gun at Randall while demanding his wallet for ID. Rowe did not identify himself as a law enforcement officer for almost a full minute.

"You (expletive) drive reckless. Give me your driver’s license or I’ll knock you off this bike," Rowe can be heard saying in the helmet cam video. Rowe then reached into Randall's pocket and pulled out his wallet without Randall's permission.

Randall later posted the helmet cam video on YouTube.

Rowe, who has been with the Sheriff's Office for about 19 years, was placed temporarily on administrative leave after the incident and former Sheriff John Urquhart called the motorcyclist to apologize for Rowe's behavior.

At Monday's press conference, Johanknecht said Rowe has undergone additional training, she said.

He has yet to serve the suspension.

In retrospect - and after seeing the video of the incident - Johanknecht also said Rowe was "ashamed" of how he had handled the traffic stop.

"He is apologetic for his behavior and believes he was wrong," she said.

She also said other King County sheriff's deputies have learfned something from the incident.

"It taught other deputies that you need to stay cool, calm and collected - and treat the public with respect ... and that didn't happen in this case."

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