Watch: Seattle Police release dramatic video of ice ax takedown, officer faces discipline
SEATTLE - Newly released video shows a dramatic police takedown, and raises new questions about whether one officer acted courageously or went too far in his attempt to protect the public.
Officer Nick Guzley now faces discipline for how he subdued a man armed with an ice ax. A complaint was filed about his failure to de-escalate the situation. However, other officers have said he made the best of a bad situation, and no one ended up getting hurt.
The Seattle police footage came from body cameras now being worn by officers, and begins inside the REI on Yale Ave. N. Security workers for the store called police to report that a man had just stolen an ice ax, then threatened one worker with it when she tried to stop him from leaving.
Police tracked the man outside the store and called for back-up when they too were threatened.
"He's been looking back at me, and he's holding it up like this like he's going to swing it at me," said one officer during the body camera recording.
In the video, the man clearly refuses to stop. He also won’t follow commands, even though officers repeatedly order him to “drop the ice ax.”
Kevin Stuckey, the president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, said the officers on scene had limited choices.
“At some point, if we don't act, someone's going to get hurt," Stuckey said.
Officers followed the suspect for blocks. At the same time, they also tried to clear the streets as the man with the ax marched ahead, yelling to people in his path to “step away” or “get out of the way.”
It is at that point in the video that the suspect passes Officer Nick Guzley, who’d just pulled up in a patrol car.
The suspect made his way into a narrow corridor just past the old Seattle Times building. It was there that police tried to press in, warning the man he would be “Tased” if he kept ignoring their orders.
In response, the man can be seen on the video turning to face the officers while holding the ice ax over his head.
Moments later, once the man turned back around, Officer Guzley rushed up from behind and made the tackle.
“I thought it was a commendable act,” Stuckey said. “The alternative is to continue to let him keep walking, until he walks into somebody while he’s clearly having a mental break, and he hits them in the head. And then what? Then the question would be, ‘Why didn't you act sooner?’"
The man with the stolen ax was later identified as James Ray Smith. He was convicted of robbery and is currently in prison.
Officer Guzley remains on patrol but is awaiting potential discipline. One of Guzley’s own supervisors filed the complaint against him with Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability.
The investigation is for "failure to de-escalate." The case remains open, but the recommendation is for Guzley to receive a two-day suspension without pay.
A due process hearing is set for May 11. The officer will have one last chance to plead his case before Chief Carmen Best finalizes any punishment.