I was called from home one Saturday to report a shooting in Westlake Center just after noon. Westlake is in the heart of downtown Seattle, just blocks from Pike Place Market, and always bustling.
One man had been shot and taken to Harborview Medical Center, where he died. A suspect was in custody.
I arrived at the scene; yellow tape encircled the area, a crowd of tourists and shoppers downtown on a lovely afternoon gaping at the spectacle.
“We got the report of the shooting,” a patrol sergeant told me. “When we arrived, the victim was down on the street. The suspect stayed. He told us that he shot the guy. I had him taken to your office.”
After looking the scene over, I went to my office to interview the shooter.
When I arrived, I ran his name in the computer systems. He had a history of nickel and dime offenses, but nothing serious. He had what appeared to be a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon.
I entered the interview room.
The shooter was a Black male in his fifties. He sat quietly in a seat in the room.
He made it clear early that he didn’t much like the police.
After advising him of his rights, we chatted for a while.
“Tell me what happened,” I said finally.
“Man,” he said. “I was minding my own business. I was going to see a movie. I walked across Westlake, and this white dude just attacked me! He grabbed me and threw me on the ground! I didn’t know who he was or why he was attacking me! He started banging my head on the ground. I thought I was going to die. I had my gun, and I took it out and shot. He fell off me.
“When I got up, I put my gun on the ground. People told me to run. I didn’t do anything wrong. I wasn’t going to run. When the police showed up, I tried to tell them it was me. They kept telling me to step back. Finally, one of them realized what I was saying. They cuffed me and brought me here.”
He had a slight scowl on his face as he told the story.
“How’s the guy doing?” he asked me.
“He’s dead,” I told him.
His shoulders shook, and he began to sob inconsolably.
“I didn’t want to kill him! I just had to get him off me.”
I left the room.
Other detectives brought in surveillance video. It had been controlled by a person in the security section of Westlake Center. It wasn’t pointed at the scene when the shooting occurred but quickly panned there afterward.
It showed the victim lying on the ground and the shooter standing over him, placing the gun on the sidewalk.
Just like he said, he stood there until the police arrived and tried to let them know he had been the shooter.
A couple of hours later, I opened the interview room door.
He looked up at me, a look of dread on his face.
“Do you need a ride home?” I asked.
“What?” he said, incredulous.
“I asked if you need a ride home,” I said. “You had a right to defend yourself.”
“Yes, please,” he said meekly.
I drove him to his apartment in the SODO area.
As it ended up, the man that attacked him was a Canadian. He had severe mental issues.
His family in Canada wasn’t happy the shooter wasn’t charged. It is what it is.
I think the guy’s opinion of the police changed that day.