Sonia Joseph fought through tears as she read a statement outside of the Kent Police Station demanding justice for her son, Giovonn Joseph-McDade, who was shot and killed June 24 by a Kent Police officer.
“It has been weeks after police fatally shot Giovonn and they are still not providing answers,” said Joseph, part of a press conference and march Thursday afternoon on a City Hall plaza. “We are heartbroken and disgusted by how the Kent Police Department has handled the situation. What we do know is death in under two minutes, two deadly PIT (pursuit intervention techniques with a vehicle) maneuvers in a cul-de-sac and shots fired into the passenger’s side (of the vehicle). Most of what we have been told has been information from media outlets.”
Joseph-McDade, 20, of Auburn, died from multiple gunshot wounds after he reportedly tried to use his vehicle to run over an officer after a short pursuit on the East Hill. McDade is a former football player and student at Kent-Meridian High School.
At about 12:15 a.m. on June 24, a Kent Police officer attempted to make a traffic stop in the 25400 block of 104th Avenue Southeast near Applebee’s restaurant for an alleged traffic offense, according to Des Moines Police, who are investigating the shooting. Joseph-McDade sped away from the officer. Police have not said why the officer attempted a traffic stop.
A pursuit intervention technique was attempted by an officer to end the pursuit but was unsuccessful. Joseph-McDade’s vehicle entered a residential cul-de-sac at 99th Avenue South and South 244th Street. An officer used pursuit intervention technique again, spinning and stopping the vehicle. One officer exited his patrol car giving commands to the occupants of the vehicle.
From the video obtained by police, Joseph-McDade’s vehicle is seen backing up then accelerating forward where the suspect vehicle collided with a patrol vehicle. Joseph-McDade reportedly drove between the two patrol vehicles where the officer was standing. The officer used deadly force discharging his firearm at the vehicle in the attempt to stop the threat. Joseph-McDade died at the scene.
“Police killings have become epidemic and it must stop now,” said Saima Joseph, an aunt of Joseph-McDade. “We have seen this time and again. Giovonn was the third person killed by police in King County in less than two weeks. It is no accident that the three recent shootings by law enforcement are young people of color, like Giovonn.
“We demand justice and accountability for Giovonn. We demand justice for all families who are impacted by the devastation of unjustly losing their loved one by those that are supposed to serve and protect.”
Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas listened to the press conference, and agreed to meet privately with the family of Joseph-McDade Thursday afternoon. The outcome of that meeting is not yet known. It had yet to be determined if Thomas would issue a statement after the meeting.
Savannah Gilley, 20, who had dated Joseph-McDade, read a long list of demands that family and friends want from Kent Police.
• The names of the officers involved in the shooting as well as the police policies around PIT maneuvers, including training procedures and records of the officers involved in Joseph-McDade’s death.
• The officers involved to be suspended without pay rather than the current policy of with pay until the investigation is complete.
• The King County Sheriff’s Office to take over the investigation from the Valley Investigative Team, led by the Des Moines Police so that King County officials take responsibility for what is happening in their county. (County Councilman Dave Upthegrove issued a statement Thursday after talking with the family to also have the Sheriff’s Office take over the case).
• An independent community-led investigation into his death.
Family and friends also want solutions:
• Require Kent Police to install dash cameras in every vehicle (Kent Police do not currently use dash cams).
“Communities of color have become targets of police killings,” Gilley said. “We cannot keep watching our family members die at the hands of police. We cannot continue to allow police to terrorize our communities with no idea of the negative impact that it has had on us.
“We demand that every officer on the force complete cultural competency, anti-racism and in-depth de-escalation training before they are hired, with continued training and quarterly reviews.”
Katrina Johnson, a cousin of Charleena Lyles, who was shot and killed June 8 by Seattle Police in her apartment, also spoke at the press conference.
“We are here in solidarity with the family to demand justice for Giovann McDade,” she said. “He deserves it. His family deserves answers. The police need to get proper de-escalation training so every time they encounter a person of color we don’t end up dead.
“There needs to be accountability for officers who are taking the lives of young black people all over. We are standing here because we demand justice and this family demands answers from the police about what happened to their loved one. We are not going to stop until we get it.”
This story originally appeared in the Kent Reporter.