13-year-old shot in encounter with Seattle police officer

By Nicole Tsong
Seattle Times
Oct. 15, 2007

A 13-year-old was taken to the hospital with leg wounds early this morning after a confrontation with a Seattle police officer during which the officer mistook a cellphone for a weapon.

Seattle police said today that the officer was patrolling the area near the 2500 block of East Yesler Way around 3 a.m. when he saw two people acting suspiciously. The two people ran when they saw the officer and he chased them a couple blocks south to the intersection of South Washington Street and 26th Avenue South.

Police say the officer shined a spotlight on them and ordered them to put their hands up, police said.

One suspect, a 14-year-old, complied. The other, 13, acted "very agitated" and didn't listen to the officer, who ordered the suspect to put up his hands several times, said John Diaz, deputy chief of operations for Seattle police.

The suspect took off a large jacket and threw it on the ground, then lifted up his T-shirt, reached into a pocket and pulled out a black object. The officer, who had his own weapon drawn, believed the teen was had a weapon and shot twice, Diaz said.

The boy was wounded once in the lower leg and once in the upper, Diaz said. The black object was later found to be a cellphone in a black case. Police described the boy's injuries as non-life-threatening.

The 14-year-old told police that the teens were "tagging" and crossing out other graffiti tags last night, but the boys did not have paint on them, police said. Neither boy was charged with a crime. They are not believed to have criminal records.

The officer, a 3-year veteran of the force, was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the shooting review board. Police said he has no prior shootings on his record.

"It is a tragic situation, tragic for the officer, tragic for the family and tragic for the kids," Diaz said.

The parents are "understandably angry," Diaz said, and the Police Department has offered the families victim support.

"We are very thankful he [the boy] wasn't hurt more seriously," Diaz said.

Officers are trained to shoot at the center of the body. Seattle spokeswoman Deanna Nollette said it was possible the officer squeezed the trigger too fast and shot low, but said it was more likely the officer shot at the perceived threat.

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