Seattle police officers suspended after waiting 20 minutes to respond to shooting


Two veteran Seattle police officers have been given a day off without pay for their lackadaisical response to a priority report of a shooting at a Sodo nightclub.

The two officers and a police trainee were taking a break at the Seattle Police Officers Guild headquarters on Fourth Avenue South early Dec. 19, 2020, when dispatch broadcast a "priority one" report of shots fired at the Showbox nightclub about a mile away.

According to a case summary published late last month by the civilian-run Office of Police Accountability, it took the two officers over 20 minutes to arrive, only to report "everything looks fine" and initially write the incident off as a disturbance.

Shortly thereafter, a man showed up at Harborview Medical Center with a gunshot wound to his arm, suffered in the shooting the officers didn't investigate, according to the case summary.

OPA found the two officers had violated professionalism standards and failed in their job to protect the community. Chief Adrian Diaz agreed with the findings, giving both officers nine-hour suspensions, which were first reported by DivestSPD, a digital site associated with the Seattle Democratic Socialists of America.

The OPA removes the names of disciplined officers from its published case summaries.

One of them, a 17-year SPD veteran, said he was relying on his experience to determine when a priority call is actually a priority. In this incident, he told OPA investigators, he was sure the victim would be gone when police arrived, which turned out to be the case.

Moreover, he said that a lights-and-siren response "heightens my stress level" and can become a public-safety issue for other drivers on the road.

"We showed up. We didn't find a scene. We didn't find any shell casings," he told investigators.

The other officer, also a 17-year veteran and a training officer, speculated that they had stopped at the rank-and-file union headquarters to have dinner, take a break, get snacks or use the restroom.

He acknowledged that a "typical response" to a priority one call is: "Drop the meal, drop the report, and go."

"[The officer] did not recall why he did not do that for this call," the OPA case summary explains.

The SPD's data dashboard indicates the median response time for a priority one call is just under eight minutes.

The police trainee recognized the lapse, telling OPA investigators he felt they had "dropped the ball." He was treated as a witness and not subjected to discipline because he was under an officer's supervision.

He recalled that he was trying to prove himself and said he was "always ... ready to go" but that his training officer "didn't move hastily."

"I remember the call coming out being sort of a hot call and kind of, you know, wanting to go to it," the trainee said, noting, "We should have done more."

Dispatchers received a call at 1:26 a.m. of shots fired at the Sodo club and concert venue. At 1:27 a.m., according to the OPA report, the officers marked themselves en route. Over the next several minutes, dispatch provided a suspect description and reported someone saw a "bloodied subject" flee the scene, according to the report. Nobody actually witnessed the shooting, and there were no apparent victims on hand, according to the documents.

The training officer and his trainee reported arriving at the scene at 1:50 a.m., with the other officer arriving at 1:51 a.m., according to dispatch logs. GPS data retrieved from the police cruisers showed the cars packed in the SPOG parking lot until 1:49 a.m.

Roughly 20 minutes after the officers arrived at the Showbox, the man who had been shot there arrived at Harborview Medical Center, according to the OPA report.

"OPA recognizes that officers must be afforded reasonable discretion to prioritize calls," the watchdog investigation noted. "However, taking twenty-two and twenty-three minutes to transition from a non-emergency activity — like eating a meal, writing a report, or using the restroom — to respond to a priority-one gunshot call is unacceptable."