A frame from video taken by a nearby security camera shows a Bothell police officer (right) shooting Juan Rene Hummel Jr who charged him with a knife. (Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team)

A frame from video taken by a nearby security camera shows a Bothell police officer (right) shooting Juan Rene Hummel Jr who charged him with a knife. (Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team)

Prosecutor declines charges in fatal Bothell police shooting

An officer shot Juan Rene Hummel, 25, five times in 2020, when Hummel charged at the officer with a knife in his hand.

BOTHELL — The Snohomish County prosecutor this week declined to file criminal charges against a Bothell police officer who shot and killed a man in 2020.

Prosecutor Adam Cornell announced the decision almost exactly two years after the officer fatally shot Juan Rene Hummel Jr., 25. Cornell wrote in a memorandum there was insufficient evidence to prove the officer committed a crime. He added that a “similarly situated reasonable officer” would have also believed fatal force was necessary.

When Washington voters approved Initiative 940 in 2018, they overhauled state law on police use of force. It meant prosecutors no longer had to prove officers acted with “evil intent” when considering criminal charges for a cop. In its place, a new “good faith” test was implemented.

Good faith is defined in state law as “an objective standard which shall consider all the facts, circumstances, and information known to the officer at the time to determine whether a similarly situated reasonable officer would have believed that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious physical harm to the officer or another individual.”

Hummel had a history of mental health issues, including schizophrenia, an online fundraiser created to help with funeral expenses noted. Family described him as loving, playful and selfless.

In a statement Thursday through their attorney, Braden Pence, the Hummel family said they are still processing the death.

“He is missed by his family and friends every second of every day,” the family said.

The Bothell Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hummel’s death came less than two weeks after Bothell officer Jonathan Shoop, 32, died from friendly fire while in a shootout with a suspect.

Around 7:30 p.m. July 29, 2020, a woman called 911 from her car, according to Cornell’s memo. She reported a man, later identified as Hummel, tried to open her car door as she sat in traffic near 228th Street SE and 20th Avenue SE in Bothell. She told a dispatcher he then pulled out a “large pocketknife” and tried to slash her tire.

Within three minutes, an officer found Hummel nearby. The encounter was captured on security cameras in the residential neighborhood. The Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team, a task force responsible for investigating police use of force, posted the footage on YouTube in Jan. 2021 in response to a public records request formally submitted by the Bothell police chief.

Hummel’s family had been asking to review the video for months before it was publicly released, Pence said in a statement Thursday. He called the decision to put it on YouTube “indecent.”

“In addition to being a private tragedy, the family’s attempts to get timely answers about what happened to Rene exposes some of the frustration, exhaustion, and alienation families commonly experience following a police shooting,” Pence said. “Rene was a beautiful and beloved person. Both he and his family deserved better.”

One video shows Hummel running up a street and glancing over his shoulder. He stops when an unmarked patrol car enters the frame with its emergency lights flashing. The video doesn’t include audio, so any sirens can’t be heard.

As the officer pulls up next to him, he appeared to take something, reportedly a knife, out of his pocket. The officer gets out of his vehicle. Hummel charges at him, with something in his hand.

The officer fires. Hummel falls. The encounter is over in just seconds.

The 15-minute video then shows the officer positioning himself behind his patrol car after shooting Hummel. About two minutes later, more officers arrive. One kicks an object away from Hummel and then picks it up. Investigators later found it was a folding knife, consistent with the large pocketknife described by the 911 caller, according to Cornell’s memo.

Three minutes after the shooting, an officer starts chest compressions. Eventually, paramedics take over. Over ten minutes after the start of chest compressions, the paramedics take away Hummel on a gurney. During much of this, the officer who shot Hummel stands near his patrol car, watching the scene.

Investigators determined the officer fired his gun seven times, according to the prosecutor. Hummel was hit five times, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office found. Two of those rounds struck him in the back.

Cornell also cited a toxicology report finding Hummel’s blood contained amphetamine, morphine and THC.

The prosecutor wrote Hummel “posed an imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm” to the officer “and potentially others.”

“There was no reasonable alternative to the deadly use of force under the circumstances,” Cornell wrote.

Still, the prosecutor called Hummel’s death a “tragedy.”

“And while it is important for all of us to recognize the undeniable social imperative to more vigorously, skillfully, and compassionately address the mental health needs of our citizens,” he wrote, “my ethical obligation is to only pursue a prosecution that I believe can be proven to a trier of fact beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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