SEATTLE — Criminal charges will not be filed against two white Seattle police officers who fatally shot a black man last year, a Washington state prosecutor announced Tuesday, saying the officers reasonably believed their lives were in danger when they opened fire.
“Their use of deadly force at that moment was authorized by law,” King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said at a news conference about the killing of Che Taylor, 46, who was shot Feb. 21, 2016.
The death of Taylor prompted demonstrations in the city and NAACP leaders condemned the shooting amid nationwide protests about police shootings.
Taylor’s family protested the decision regarding charges, calling the killing unjust and saying police should be held accountable.
“In Washington state, there is nothing that an officer can do that makes his behavior wrong when he chooses to use deadly force,” the victim’s brother, Andre Taylor, told reporters Tuesday. “Even if you comply, you die.”
Che Taylor’s wife, Brenda, said she was appalled that the officers are “getting away with this.”
“This has devastated me tremendously,” she said. “I feel lost. He was 14 years of my life.”
The officers were conducting surveillance in north Seattle when they saw a man with a holstered handgun and recognized him as Taylor, a felon who was prohibited from possessing a firearm, prosecutors say.
The officers with unspecified “long guns” moved in to arrest Taylor as he stood in the space between a car and its open door then leaned down. The officers ordered him to show his hands and get to the ground. Prosecutors say Taylor raised his hands just above his chest area.
Police dashboard video shows Taylor lowering his body below the door frame and that’s when one officer fired five or six times; the other officer fires once.
Satterberg called the shooting tragic and acknowledged the disappointment by Taylor family.
“They lost a loved one and they have many questions about why,” he said.
But he said “this is not, as a legal question, a close case.”
The Seattle King County NAACP said in a statement that it was “deeply disappointed” but not surprised by the decision.
“It proves what we’ve known all along: that our criminal justice system is set-up to protect police officers, even when it comes at the expense of protecting the community,” the group said.
A King County inquest jury found last month that officers Scott Miller and Michael Spaulding had reason to fear for their lives and that Taylor posed a threat of death or serious injury to officers.
The officers were going in to make a legal arrest and they had reason to believe that Taylor had a firearm and was going to use it to resist arrest, Satterberg said Tuesday.
Andre Taylor said the state needs to reform its laws.
Several bills have been proposed in the state Legislature that would lower the bar for prosecuting law enforcement officers who use deadly force but they have stalled.