911 recordings released in Arlington police shooting of teen

ARLINGTON — A 17-year-old girl reportedly was suicidal and armed with a knife when she was shot by police Feb. 14.

Investigators on Wednesday released the recordings of three calls to 911 and nearly nine minutes of police radio traffic from before and after the shots were fired. The girl was hit in the chest and in her lower right side, officers said on the tape as they called for medics.

She was listed in serious condition in intensive care at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Therecords were made public the day after dozens of people showed up at an Arlington City Council meeting, apparently in reaction to the shooting.

The 911 tapes make clear police were provided conflicting details moments before the confrontation.

The records show that witnesses saw someone lying in the middle of North Olympic Avenue, prompting calls to 911. One woman told a dispatcher that a girl in the road was screaming. Around the same time, another caller reported a man “rolling around in the middle of the street.”

A short time later, an officer broadcast on his radio that a woman was armed with a knife. He said she was suicidal and was trying to get into a car. Then he called, “Shots fired.”

One of the witnesses called 911 again. She said she heard a man yelling and cursing after the gunshots, but she wasn’t sure who he was or who he was yelling at. Officers also said that a second person at the scene, who apparently was with the girl, was not obeying their commands.

Detectives now believe the girl had been fighting downtown with her boyfriend, 18.

The Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team, a group of detectives drawn from throughout the county, is investigating what happened that morning. The Arlington officers said that when the girl advanced on them with a knife, they first attempted to stop her with a stun gun.

Detailed reports about police shootings usually don’t become public for months. That typically happens after the case is closed and forwarded to prosecutors for review. Even the most thorough investigations don’t answer every question.

A week after the shooting, people packed Tuesday’s Arlington City Council meeting. Neighborhood groups, social media and word of mouth helped circulate plans for a march downtown and a sit-in at the meeting to express concern about the shooting. Some people posted on social media that they planned to attend to show support for police.

Mayor Barbara Tolbert started the council meeting by inviting public comment. No one spoke, she said.

Two people carried signs, but didn’t hold them up high enough for Heather Logan, a city spokeswoman, to read.

“The crowd was incredibly well-behaved, polite and quiet,” she said. “I assumed it was about the incident last week, but they didn’t say a word.”

The council agenda that night included routine business such as a right-of-way dedication, updating a contract and amending a road mitigation agreement. There was no discussion of the shooting, and none was scheduled, Logan said.

People want to know what happened and why, said Nancy Nysether, 73. She’s lived in Arlington for 39 years. Tuesday’s City Council meeting was the first she’s attended. The retired piano teacher heard about it through a neighborhood group.

“People in Arlington are very upset, I’ll tell you that,” she said. “It’s not a very comfortable feeling in Arlington right now.”

Nysether has talked about the shooting with friends and family, but it’s hard to sort out the facts, she said. People want to understand why this happened in their town, she said.

During the City Council meeting, she noticed two police officers in the room. She said their presence may explain why no one spoke.

At least one representative from the police department regularly attends City Council meetings, Logan said. Staff from all city departments try to be there in case council members have questions.

Logan urged people to be patient and to make sure they are vetting the information they hear or see online about the shooting.

“Investigations take time,” she said. “The public demand for information is high, but the SMART team needs time to answer those questions. We’re all collectively waiting.”

The girl’s name has not been released, and her family has not granted interviews. Under privacy laws, the police and the hospital cannot provide additional information besides her condition without family permission.

Reporter Rikki King contributed to this story.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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