SEATTLE — Inquest jurors will hear evidence that Aaron Roberts had three drugs in his system when he was shot to death by a Seattle police officer, a judge has ruled.
Jurors will also hear about Roberts’ past run-in with Seattle police officer Greg Neubert, the officer who was dragged by Roberts’ car in the shooting incident.
King County District Judge Barbara Linde agreed with Roberts’ family Friday that Neubert should be made a focus of the inquest, even though he wasn’t the one who fired the fatal shot.
Police say Roberts, 37, was shot to death May 31 after a traffic stop in the Central District. According to the police account, Roberts grabbed Neubert’s arm and drove away, dragging Neubert. Then officer Craig Price got into the car from the passenger’s door and shot Roberts.
Attorneys for Roberts’ family contend Neubert forced his way into the car. Roberts’ family has also said he was shot by Price, a white officer, because he was black.
"This is a case where both officers’ actions are going to be scrutinized by the jury," Linde said.
She said presenting evidence about Neubert’s past — including allegations that he roughed up or harassed citizens — would be unfair.
But she also ruled that jurors will be allowed to hear how Neubert arrested Roberts last year, jostling him to the ground.
The Roberts family’s attorneys contend that Neubert used excessive force in that incident. The officer said Roberts was reaching for a gun in his pocket.
The arrest was for allegations that Roberts had hit his ex-girlfriend and taken her money. She later recanted, and he pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a firearm.
Linde also decided that jurors should hear evidence that Roberts was on drugs when he was shot, saying that may be relevant to Roberts’ state of mind and his behavior.
A toxicology report showed that "peak levels" of cocaine and the drug Ecstasy were found in his system, and that he’d taken enough heroin to kill someone, according to Lisa Marchese, one of the officers’ lawyers.
Marchese said the amount of drugs in the man’s blood and urine showed he had taken them "within a matter of hours" of being pulled over.
"He was clearly impaired by the combined influence of these drugs," Marchese said.
However, Roberts’ family’s attorney Doug Wilson said witnesses described Roberts as calm and rational that night. He argued that there was no way to know how the drugs affected him.
"There is just a huge leap between ‘he’s got drugs in his system’ and (claiming) he acted a certain way," Wilson said.
The police shooting of Roberts led to a series of protests against police racism in the city’s historically black Central District, where Roberts was well known.
At a July 7 community celebration in the district, a protester bashed Seattle Mayor Paul Schell with a megaphone, breaking some bones around his right eye.
Omari Tahir-Garrett, a longtime black activist, pleaded innocent to second-degree assault and awaits trial.
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