The King County Council unanimously passed a proposal Monday ensuring public defenders are made available to the families of people killed in officer-involved shootings during the inquest process.
Last year, on June 24, a 20-year-old named Giovann Joseph-McDade was shot to death by Kent police. The inquest hearing investigating the circumstances of his death by law enforcement was held in December. His mother, Sonia Joseph, was not prepared emotionally or financially for what befell her.
Supporters hope Initiative 940 will change Washington state policy so fatal police shootings happen less often and so there’s more accountability when they occur. Gathering on a few Seattle City Hall steps Friday, a crowd representing 33 different families impacted by police killings gathered in support of I-940 in the hopes of preventing future deaths.
The Puget Sound region witnessed a slew of police killings in the past year: Renee Davis Oct. 21, 2016, Jacqueline Salyers on Jan. 28, Daniel Covarrubias in April, Tommy Le June 13, Charleena Lyles June 18, Giovonn Joseph-McDade June 24. All of them were people of color. Salyers, Davis and Lyles were all pregnant when killed.
“What else did we think would come with this when the police are investigating themselves,” asked Katrina Johnson, Lyles’ cousin. “They keep killing people and getting away with it.”
Donnie Chin was perhaps one of the International District’s most beloved community members. He was a watchdog, a friend, and a family man. Since his death on July 23, 2015, when 59-year-old Chin was caught in the crossfire of what police say was gang violence, the Chinatown International District community and many others are still looking for answers. Last week marked month 25 since Chin’s death, and the fourth meeting the community held with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) at Nagomi Tea House.
“It’s sad to be here,” state Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, (D – Seattle) said. “I always hate to ask you to come and relive an unhealed wound.”
She noted that there were more cameras at this meeting than the last one, though there were only three. Santos, along with many other community leaders, feel they’ve been left in the dark when it comes to Chin’s investigation.
“This is simply not acceptable,” Santos said. “This community is also a part of the public to whom the police are accountable.”
Tommy Le was a 20-year-old high schooler shot and killed by King County deputies on June 13 after responding to a disturbance call in Burien. Le was to graduate the next day. Le recently bought a tuxedo for his brother’s wedding, but it had to instead be used for his funeral. The family, due to legal concerns and religious practice, will not be available for interviews for 49 days after his death.
In an effort to get answers for Tommy Le’s family, members of the community organized a forum at Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) in which officials listened and answered questions. Young Vietnamese Americans were given priority after the family throughout the evening.
Photos captured through that event (June 25, 2017) can be seen through my Flickr account. Some photos were published with South Seattle Emerald.