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Prosecutor won't charge Seattle officers for killing Che Taylor

Che Taylor

SEATTLE - King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said he will not be filing criminal charges against two Seattle police officers who fatally shot a man during an undercover drug bust last year.

Satterberg’s announcement comes about a month after the majority of an inquest jury found that Officers Michael Spaulding and Scott Miller believed Che Taylor posed a threat.

Prosecutor Dan Satterberg says the police confrontation started and was over within seconds.

“The officers were confronted with an armed suspect they believed was going for a gun when they tried to arrest him for a felony, they were entitled to use defense,” Satterberg said.

Taylor’s family called Satterberg’s decision not to file charges an insult. Since the February 2016 shooting in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood the family has said that race played a factor in Taylor’s death – Taylor was black, the officers are white.

“That in Washington state there is nothing that an officer can do that makes his behavior wrong when he chooses to use deadly force,” Andre Taylor, Che Taylor’s brother said in a news conference Tuesday. “He [Satterberg] is sending a message out to our community that even if you comply, you die.”

Satterberg said he relied on the facts of the case, as well as evidence, to make his decision. He said he also reviewed the inquest jury’s findings.

Seattle police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb declined to comment on the Prosecutor’s announcement.

Jenna Mitchell, who was on the Taylor inquest jury, said she’s disappointed by Satterberg’s decision.

“It sort of boggles my mind that people, two officers, can kill a person who was seemingly unarmed and with no consequence,” Mitchell said. “Based on the evidence, I don’t believe they should have shot him.”

Officers Spaulding and Miller were conducting surveillance when they saw a man with a holstered handgun. Officers recognized Taylor and knew he was forbidden from possessing a firearm because he was a convicted felon, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Officers said they commanded Taylor to show his hands and get on the ground, but when they saw Taylor lowering his body below the frame of a car door Spaulding, then Miller, opened fire, the prosecution said in a statement released Tuesday.

Firefighters called to the scene found an empty gun holster on Taylor’s right hip, the statement said.

“While we might wish this encounter had had a different outcome this is not, as a legal question, a close case,” Satterberg said.

There is a push in Olympia to change the state’s use of deadly force law, essentially making it easier to prosecute police officers. Andre Taylor is part of this movement.

While current law requires prosecutors to find officers’ acted with malice and without good faith before filing charges, Senate Bill 5073, which is still alive in the Legislature, would remove the word “malice” and clarify the term “good faith.”

Satterberg, who has also participated in many of the discussions to alter the deadly force law, said that even if the law was updated it wouldn’t have impacted his decision in whether to pursue charges in Taylor’s death.

“Their use of deadly force, in that moment, was authorized by law,” Satterberg said.

The Seattle King County NAACP said in a statement released Tuesday that they’re “disappointed but not surprised” by Satterberg’s decision. They said his decision “underscores” the need to change the state’s deadly force law.

“In three decades, of 256 people killed in Washington state, not one officer, not one in three decades has been held accountable of his behavior,” Andre Taylor said.

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