News Clips— Magnolia standoff

IF POLICE STANDOFFS always seem to turn deadly, an incident in Magnolia two weeks back appeared to be the exception. According to newspaper accounts, officers waited out a barricaded suspect on 34th Avenue West, then captured him without harm. A police report likewise says, "SWAT eventually took the suspect into custody" —period.

But puzzled neighbors wonder why no one is mentioning police use of a stun gun or that a rubber bullet apparently resulted in the loss of an eye by the homeowner, an unarmed single man named Jim Conroy who had gone off his psychiatric medicine.

"We've lived here 34 years, and Jim has lived across the street 15 years, and we've never had a problem with him," says neighbor Shirley Wright. "We're concerned that excessive force was used." Conroy wasn't threatening anyone, adds her husband, Steve. He just wouldn't open his door to police.

The seven-hour April 9 standoff began after Conroy ran outside and shouted "Rape! Rape! Rape! There's blood on me! There's blood on the walls! Call 911!" say witnesses.

Police arrived to find him locked in his neat bungalow home near Magnolia Village. A SWAT team with armored vehicles was called to confront Conroy, a member of a longtime Magnolia family.

Looking confused at times as he stood in his front window during part of the ordeal, Conroy eventually agreed to a police negotiator's request that he bring out some of his electrical appliances. (According to friends, Conroy had told the negotiator that the appliances were causing his delusions.) When he appeared in his doorway, neighbors say, five SWAT members took him down using a Taser stun gun and a rubber baton round that hit in or around his eye.

"That just seemed unnecessary," says neighbor Steve Smalley. "He was in the door holding this appliance with both hands. All they had to do was grab him." Smalley, a conservative cable-access TV host, featured the videotaped incident on his That's Right show last week.

"We're Republicans here; we kinda like the police, too, but we have to question [their actions]," he says. A caller to the show, a woman from the multiracial Central District, said maybe now the mostly white Magnolia neighborhood knows how the C.D. feels about police.

However, police point out that Conroy was a threat to himself and that officers negotiated before successfully luring him outdoors and subduing him nonlethally. They say the rubber bullet was aimed at his chest but that, while struggling, Conroy ducked into its trajectory. He is recovering at Harborview on a 14-day psychiatric hold (the hospital would not release any details, but the Seattle Fire Department says he suffered a nonlethal blunt injury).

"Well, the police have their story," says Shirley Wright, "the neighbors have theirs, and Jim lost an eye for not opening his door."

Rick Anderson

randerson@seattleweekly.com

 
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