By Chris B. Bennett
Special to the NNPA News Wire from The Seattle Medium
On Monday, February 22, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) released dashcam video of the fatal police shooting of Che Taylor, a 47-year old African American male, by Seattle Police officers.
According to reports, officers from the North Precinct were investigating a suspicious car on the 2100 block of NE 85th St. around 3:45 p.m. on Sunday, February 21, when officers spotted Taylor, who police characterized as “a known felon who was clearly armed.”
At approximately 4:15, officers called for additional units to assist in taking Taylor into custody. As Taylor stood at the passenger door of a white Ford Taurus, a marked patrol vehicle with emergency lights on pulled up facing the Taurus.
According to SPD, an arrest team then approached the vehicle to take Taylor into custody. Officers ordered Taylor to show his hands and get on the ground. Officials claim that Taylor did not follow the officers’ commands, and instead leaned into the Taurus. At this point, SPD claims that Taylor was either reaching for a gun or had a gun within reach causing officers to fire their weapons at him.
However, the dashcam video has stirred up more questions. The video appears to show that Taylor had his hands on the roof of the car, complying with the officers’ commands to put his hands up and to get on the ground. However, the angle provided from the dashcam did not provide a view of the entire incident. When Taylor was getting down he was out of the view of the camera, but the officers could still visibly be seen. Within seconds of Taylor apparently getting on the ground, officers, with their guns drawn, moved around the vehicle and shot Taylor multiple times. He later died at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
“The video is inconclusive, but it is troubling,” said Rev. Carl Livingston, community activist and professor of sociology at Seattle Central College.
“It’s inconclusive in terms of what the officers said about whether or not Taylor was reaching for a gun,” Livingston continued. “It’s also inconclusive with respect to whether or not he posed any type of danger or risk to others or the officers.
Livingston said the video and the incident are troubling on many fronts, including: the allegation by police that Taylor had a gun in his hand. Taylor raised his hands and appeared to comply with the officers’ command to raise his hands and get on the ground and that officers did not ask him to step away from the car.
“It appears from the video that he did not have a gun in his hand or any apparent gun on his person,” said Livingston. “It’s difficult to see him when he begins to bend down and you can’t see where his hands are or what is in reach.”
“It’s troubling that they did not ask him to step away from the vehicle or even turn so that, when he got down on the ground, he could have more space to comply with their orders,” said Livingston.
“When they asked him to get on the ground he was facing the car, and to get down on the ground from there meant that he would be bending towards the door frame of the car,” continued Livingston. “Because of the position he was in to comply with their orders meant that he was being forced to move in a position that someone could say he was reaching for a weapon.”
Felicia Cross, chair of the Seattle Police Department’s African American Community Advisory Committee, has concerns about the incident, as well. Cross says that she was contacted by Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole and was asked to listen to all the facts before making judgment on the case.
“The stories about him having a gun and a felon having a gun, the video did not clear that up for me,” said Cross. “We need to see more of the video, it’s not clear what happened and [the video] makes us ask more questions.”
Social media and a number of gathering places in the community have been flooded with conversations about the incident, especially since the video was released. Many believe that the attempt by SPD to be proactive and to quell anger about the incident in the African American community by releasing the video did more harm than good.
“I was really shocked that they put that video out there like that,” says Carlos Benjamin, owner of Los’ VIP Cuts in South Seattle. “Like it was going to justify what they did. It makes no sense to me. To me it just made it worse, and just adds fuel to the fire.”
Benjamin said that Taylor was in his shop just a few weeks ago, and appeared to be in a good place with his life. He described him as clean cut, and a person who had clearly made some life changing decisions.
“He’s not the same person that he was 22 years ago,” said Benjamin. “He did his time and you can tell that this guy gets it now.”
“All he was talking about was the new job he got and how good it was to be free,” Benjamin continued. “To me it looked like he had been rehabilitated.”
“There is no way he was going to confront the police,” added Benjamin. “He might have 20 years ago, but today no way. There is no way, that I believe he was a threat to them.”
While the circumstances of the case are still uncertain, many in the community are disturbed with the description utilized by SPD and the media when making reference to Taylor.
“I didn’t know the guy, but it looks like he’s very well loved in the community,” Cross said. “I’m feeling really bad for the family, especially the way he’s being characterized in the press.”
“We will do whatever we can do to help the family and try to get the facts and a better understanding and clarity on the situation,” added Cross.
According to Benjamin, Taylor was very popular and well-known in the community, and his death will resonate for some time.
Benjamin added: “A lot of people loved this guy, he has touched a lot of people.”