This year, police violence has gotten more attention in the media than ever with a police officer killing someone every eight hours in 2015. Now, this trend in events has made its way to Seattle, and has hit very close to home for many in the Roosevelt area.
At roughly 4:35 on Friday morning, 27 year old caucasian male Samuel Smith was shot and killed by a policeman on 65th Street and Ravenna Avenue, just six blocks from Roosevelt. A half hour earlier, a grey Mazda 3 rammed into the back of a patrol car on I-5, sending it spinning into a ditch on the side of the freeway. The Mazda drove off and the officer who was driving the police car was sent to Harborview Medical Center with minor injuries. Police combed the city for a car that matched the description of the one that hit the patrol car. When they discovered the same model of car with front-end damage to match the accident earlier that morning, an officer whose identity has not been disclosed approached the car. Shown by the dashcam video from the officer’s patrol car, Smith ran at the officer with a 16-inch knife in his hand. The officer ordered Smith to “drop the knife” and immediately fired 3 shots, killing Smith at a close range.
Patrol cars converged at the scene and it was soon surrounded by yellow tape. Sean Lutterman was walking to his early morning shift at Bagel Oasis when he heard the shots. As he turned the corner to investigate he “saw five or so officers in shooting position … I just kept walking and tried not to get hit by all the cruisers out here.” A neighbor of Smith’s said that for the rest of friday, police officers were “crawling all over the apartments.” Sophomore Antonio Zacco Lives in the area. “I just think it’s a little unsettling to know that something so intense can happen right in our neighborhood. It’s a bit of a wake up call,” he remarked.
Police are confident that Smith was driving the car that hit the patroler on I-5 that morning. “The damage (to the car) is consistent with that accident scene,” said Police Captain Sean O’Donnell. The officer that shot Smith has been put on paid administrative leave while Crime Scene Investigation and the Office of Professional Accountability investigate the shooting. Smith’s death was ruled a homicide.
The death of Smith however, is not an abnormality if one looks at the track record of the Seattle Police Department. Over the past few years, the SPD has been responsible for a number of shootings, most famously that of John T. Williams, a Native American woodcarver who worked in Pike Place Market in 2010. This is the third year that the SPD has been under federal oversight after the department of justice found evidence of “excessive force” and “biased policing” in the department.
Featured Picture: The shooting took place at 65th and Ravenna, just blocks away from Roosevelt. Photo by Maddie Dowling.