King County (WA) Sheriff’s deputies conducted a welfare check at an address on the Muckleshoot tribal lands just after 6:30 p.m because of a text that a woman at the address had sent a friend indicating that she was suicidal.
When the deputies arrived, no one would come to the door, but they saw two small children—aged 2 and 3—through the window, seemingly unattended. Officers then made entry into the home.
An Auburn woman was killed in an officer-involved shooting on the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation Friday night, according to the King County Sheriff’s office.
Deputies responded to a home just after 6:30 p.m. near 158th Avenue Southeast and Southeast 382nd Place, after reports of a suicidal woman armed with a gun inside the home with two young children.
“They tried repeatedly to get somebody to come to the door, nobody did,” said King County Sheriff’d Sgt. Cindi West. “But, they could see the two kids running around inside then house.”
The deputies then entered the home to do a welfare check on the 23-year-old woman.
“The found her in the house and she was armed with a handgun,” said Sgt. West.
The two deputies ended up firing multiple shots, hitting the women. Medics pronounced the woman dead at the scene. The two children were not hurt.
Detectives are still trying to find out what led up to the shooting.
Renee Davis was 23 years old. She had three children (the eldest, 5, was with a family friend at the time of the shooting). She was five months pregnant with her fourth child when she was killed.
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When law enforcement officers arrive at an emotionally disturbed persons (EDP) call, they never know quite what they are going to encounter. In this instance, the adult in the home was non-responsive after indications that she may self-harm, while officers could see two unattended children. One would expect that the deputies had to be concerned that the woman had already made an attempt on her life at that point, and the welfare of the two toddlers was paramount.
After making entry, the deputies encountered Ms. Davis, whom they said was armed with a handgun.
The King County Sheriff’s Department says that both officers opened fire on Ms. Davis.
I find that detail to be interesting, in that it suggests that enough time passed as the incident developed to suggest that both officers were able to get into a firing position. This strongly suggests that there was a verbal interaction with Ms. Davis, and that she was told to drop the gun and refused. Again, this is only speculation, but it is informed speculation.
Sadly, the context of many interactions between emotionally-disturbed persons and law enforcement officers puts officers at a great disadvantage. The EDP is typically at the lowest of emotional lows, which is why officers were dispatched. The EDP is not acting rationally, and is often very aggressive or suicidally depressed, and often times are a combination of the two.
Time and time again we’ve seen video of emotionally-disturbed people who have feigned reaching for a weapon getting shot. Those who have survived the encounters typically admit later that their goal was suicide by cop. They were actively attempting to get shot in hopes of being killed.
We also have incidents where the emotionally disturbed persons is a serious threat to others, and means to harm others.
The problem for law enforcement is that it is impossible to know whether the EDP is a greater threat to themselves or others, and EDPs will tell you that they don’t know themselves sometimes what their intentions are at this times.
All that officers can do when they encounter an armed EDP is issue commands for the suspect to drop the weapon. Inside a home, they have no real practical ability to retreat, and with two children in the home in this specific instance with Ms. Davis armed with a handgun, the deputies had to act as the protectors of these children against their armed and dangerously depressed mother.
As she was armed with a firearm tasers, chemical sprays, and batons were not viable responses.
Deputies had to get her to drop the firearm using vocal commands, or they would have to fire if they perceived the slightest indication that she meant to open fire. That could range from regripping the gun, to shifting her feet, to something she said, to a look in her eyes, like Thomas Hayden Church’s Billy Clanton in the OK Corral shootout in the modern-classic western Tombstone.
While there may be details forthcoming in the investigation into Ms. Davis’s shooting by these King County deputies, preliminary evidence suggests that they were in what they reasonable perceived as a true “no win” scenario, where if they didn’t fire when Ms. Davis refused to drop her handgun, that she was a threat to not just the deputies, but her two toddlers.
I feel very sad for Ms. Davis, her three surviving children, their family, and both of these deputies, who will have to deal with a lifetime of replaying the incident in their minds, wondering if they could have plausibly done anything differently.
Unfortunately, there probably wasn’t.