Tacoma police officers shot and killed a man Friday afternoon at a bus stop in the 6100 block of Sixth Avenue.
The incident marked the fourth death in the region this week involving confrontations between law enforcement and civilians.
The man brandished a fixed-blade knife, ignored officers’ commands to drop it and raised it in a “threatening gesture,” Police Chief Don Ramsdell said. The two officers were about 7 feet from the man when they fired.
“Unfortunately, he was shot multiple times,” Ramsdell said. “I am very confident that the force they used was appropriate. The manner in which he was waving the knife around was a threat.”
The man was airlifted to Harbor-view Medical Center in Seattle, where he died, police said. He remains unidentified. Ramsdell described him as about 50 years old.
The names of the two officers involved in the incident were not released Friday. Ramsdell said they have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure in such incidents.
According to police, the man bought the knife at a nearby discount store and walked outside. Bystanders noticed him waving the knife and behaving strangely. They called 911. When the two officers arrived, they approached the man and ordered him to drop the knife. Instead, he raised it above his shoulder. The officers fired.
A witness, Lisa Dean, saw the incident. “We had an exact clear view,” she said.
She was about to take her children shopping at the discount store.
She said she saw the man standing with a group of people at the bus stop. The two police officers arrived, and the group of men began to move away. The man did not. The officers shouted at him.
“They started to yell, ‘Get down on the ground, get down on the ground,’ ” Dean said. “Well, he didn’t do it. They got really aggravated. They started screaming, ‘Drop the knife, drop the knife, get down on the ground.’ ”
Dean said the officers were standing 10 to 15 feet from the man. She saw one officer jerk back or stumble back, but she could not tell why. She said she did not see a knife, though she heard the officers yelling about it.
'KIND OF CONFUSED'
The officer who stumbled fired the first shot, Dean said. The second officer also fired. Dean thought she heard five to seven shots in quick succession. She saw the man fall back against the fence and slump.
“I did not see the man come out or swing at them or make any kind of forward movement,” she said. “Nothing that the suspect did that I saw made it look like he was advancing on them. He just seemed kind of confused.”
Dean said she never saw the victim raise his arms. “Not even a little bit,” she said.
Another witness, John Bush, told KIRO-TV that he saw the man “make a run on the cop, and the cop shot him a few times.”
Apart from calling the weapon a fixed-blade knife, police gave no additional description of it. The discount store carries a small selection of knives: kitchen-style blades and box-cutter-style utility knives.
TASER AN OPTION?
Bystanders milling around the crime scene wondered why officers didn’t Taser the man instead of shooting him. Ramsdell said the circumstances didn’t allow that option.
“A knife is a deadly weapon,” police spokesman Mark Fulghum said. “You respond to deadly force with deadly force.”
The incident was the third officer-involved shooting in the region this week and the fourth incident that ended in a civilian’s death.
On Monday, a Seattle police officer fatally shot John T. Williams, 52, a woodcarver carrying a knife and a wooden block. Questions have risen about whether Williams posed a serious enough threat to justify lethal force.
On Tuesday, Federal Way police fatally shot David Charles Young, 23, who was driving a stolen truck and reportedly tried to run down an officer who approached him.
Also Tuesday, Pierce County sheriff’s deputies Tasered a 27-year-old man who reportedly was causing a disturbance at a Spanaway apartment complex. Deputies tried to take King Ramses PJG Hoover into custody. Reportedly, he resisted, and deputies Tasered him.
A few minutes later, deputies noticed Hoover was having trouble breathing. He was taken to St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood, where he died. An autopsy was inconclusive; the Pierce County medical examiner is still assessing the cause of Hoover’s death.