“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon.” - Dr. Seuss
“This kind of excessive force was not necessary,” neighbor Shirley Wright said.
The standoff began at 12:30 p.m. when police responded to reports that a man was in his yard screaming for help. According to Scott Moss, a spokesman for the Seattle Police Department who was at the scene, the man had blood on his hands and claimed that blood was on his walls.
Before police arrived, the man locked himself in the house and wrote “Help me” in blood on the window, Moss said. The man refused to respond to police requests to come outside, according to Moss.
One of the man’s brothers confirmed that the man had a history of mental problems. Although he’d been on lithium for years to treat his medical condition, he had recently stopped taking the medication, his brother said.
Witnesses to the standoff estimated that 10 to 12 police vehicles, in addition to two armored vehicles, converged on the scene. Police closed the block to traffic.
Neighbors and one of the man’s brothers said that police rejected the aid of family members and a mental health professional who had worked with the man. Neighbor David Wright was rebuffed when he told an officer that he had a master’s degree in psychology and asked if a psychologist was on the scene.
“His brothers and I asked an officer what we could do, and the officer said to get out of there,” Wright said. “It was unbelievable.”
Neighbor Dan Kerlee said that the police coaxed the man into stepping out onto his porch. The police report listed the time as 6:45 p.m.
Police then shot the man in the left side of the face with a beanbag gun and subsequently stunned him with an electrically charged Taser, according to neighbors and one of the man’s brothers. The police report states that, upon searching the man’s home, police discovered and confiscated marijuana.
Neighbors and one of the man’s brothers said that the man, bleeding from the left side of his face, was transported to Harborview Medical Center. Although the man underwent five hours of surgery on Thursday night, it is unlikely that he will regain vision in his left eye, said one of his brothers.
Family members confirmed that the man is scheduled for release from Harborview today. The man’s brothers have obtained an attorney and prefer not to comment further on the case.
As of the News press deadline, a second police spokesman to whom the News was referred said that he was unaware that the beanbag shooting and injury had occurred.
Neighbors in Magnolia, on the other hand, are vocal about what they see as police injustice.
“If the neighborhood wants to get up in arms over this thing, I’m in,” neighbor Randy Vaughn said. “If this thing happened in the [Central Area], there’d be 400 people rioting out here now.”
Vaughn called the West Precinct Office of the Seattle Police Department to complain about the incident. According to Vaughn, when he told the watch sergeant that things were getting out of hand, the sergeant promptly hung up the phone.
Neighbors worry that police officers lack the skills to deal with the mentally ill. Although the man had committed no crime and carried no weapons, the police responded with force.
“I still can’t understand why they have to shoot people in the face,” Wright said.
Wright was among several witnesses who said they believe that the police officers should have accepted help from those who knew the man. The man’s brothers expressed interest in communicating with him, yet were removed from the immediate scene.
“He was a man who needed help,” Kerlee said. “No one thought that (he) posed any threat to others or himself.”
A group of neighbors plans to file a complaint with the Seattle Police Department. They hope to enlist the aid of Seattle City Council Member Jim Compton. Residents want the police department to be held accountable for the incident.
“It seems like an organization with a P.R. problem would be more flexible when it came to attacking a mentally unstable man,” neighbor Steve Smalley said. “He wasn’t breaking the law. It seems like overkill to me.”