Cops and Conduct

Kent Officers, Witnesses Describe Fatal Shooting of Joseph-McDade

As the formal investigation nears its conclusion, a more complete account of the night emerges.

Kent Police officer William Davis says he feared he would be seriously injured or killed as he stood in a street with his gun aimed at the driver of a vehicle he had pursued for a short distance on the East Hill.

Davis, 42, in a written report released by Kent Police last week about the June 24 incident, wrote that driver Giovonn Joseph-McDade accelerated his vehicle directly at him after he had ordered the driver to turn the car off as well as yelled, “Police, Stop!”

“I was afraid that I was going to be seriously injured or killed by the vehicle when it struck me,” Davis said in the report. “I was in a deadly force situation. In an attempt to stop the driver from running me over, I fired twice from my duty pistol as the suspect vehicle continued to drive at me.”

Joseph-McDade, 20, of Auburn, and a former Kent-Meridian High School student-athlete, died at the scene from the gunshot wounds. The shooting occurred at 99th Avenue South and South 244th Street near Canterbury Park.

After pleas from relatives and friends of Joseph-McDade at a July 13 press conference to release more information about the case, Police Chief Ken Thomas decided to release documents to the family and the media. The Valley Investigative Team, led by the Des Moines Police, is close to wrapping up its investigation of the shooting, Thomas said.

A family spokeswoman said she would comment about the documents and videos released by police when the family had a response. As of Tuesday, the family has not issued a response.

Kent Police officer Matthew Rausch, 26, made the initial stop of Joseph-McDade and began the pursuit when Joseph-McDade took off. Rausch and Davis have returned to duty.

In a written report to Thomas, Rausch explained why he decided to pull over Joseph-McDade. Rausch saw at about 12:05 a.m. on June 24 a 1990s Honda near the gas pump at the Arco AM/PM, 10402 SE 256th St., a car later determined to be driven by Joseph-McDade.

Rausch said he saw two men inside the Honda and a third man enter the rear passenger door. Rausch said he knows many Hondas from the 1990s and early 2000s are stolen, and vehicle theft is a significant problem in Kent, so he ran a routine inquiry on the license plate and discovered the 1994 vehicle had expired tabs and a cancelled registration.

Rausch watched Joseph-McDade pulled away from the gas pumps after the man in the back of the car had exited. Because the area is a known site for drug dealing, Rausch said he might have observed a narcotics sale. When the Honda headed north on 104th Avenue Southeast, Rausch followed it and pulled in behind it when it parked at Applebee’s restaurant.

The officer called in the traffic stop and activated his overhead lights. He said Joseph-McDade then exited the Honda. Rausch exited his vehicle and told the driver to get back in his car, which the driver did. He called for a second unit to assist because of Joseph-McDade’s behavior. Davis responded he would assist. The Honda then sped out of the parking lot and Rausch pursued it, with speeds reaching nearly 60 mph in a 35 mph zone along 104th Avenue Southeast.

Both officers tried using their vehicles to stop the Honda with what’s known as a PIT (pursuit intervention technique to spin the car out of control), but those efforts failed. The officers then believed they had the Honda trapped and stopped in a cul-de-sac near 99th Avenue South and South 244th Street.

Davis wrote in his report that he stood in front of the Honda on the passenger side when he yelled orders to stop the car. When the car came at him, he fired the two shots through the windshield. The driver continued to accelerate.

“As the car passed me, the mirror missed me by less than a foot,” Rausch said. “I was so close to the vehicle that I could only see part of the passenger through the window as I looked down through it.”

In addition to the officers’ statements, Kent Police released several video reenactments as part of the Des Moines Police investigation. In one of the videos, detectives talk to Devonte Cheeks, a passenger in Joseph-McDade’s vehicle. Cheeks, a friend of Joseph-McDade, was not injured during the pursuit or shooting.

In the other two videos, detectives talk to a ride-along passenger (an officer recruit) who was in the patrol vehicle with Davis.

Cheeks told detectives in the video he was surprised Joseph-McDade sped away from the officer parked behind them at the Applebee’s parking lot.

“If it was my decision, we wouldn’t have left,” said Cheeks, even though he knew he would probably be going to jail because of warrants.

Cheeks had warrants for failure to appear on criminal trespass, theft and assault charges in Tukwila and Seattle, according to jail records. Cheeks said he asked Joseph-McDade to let him out. He said they reached speeds of up to 60 mph.

“I was scared,” said Cheeks, who added Joseph-McDade focused on driving and didn’t say anything. “I remember the (police) Tahoe being on our ass. He said ‘we are going to run.’”

Cheeks said his friend tried to find an opening to drive through between the police vehicles in the cul-de-sac. He saw an officer pointing a gun at the car, standing just to the right of them.

“He was yelling, ‘turn off the car, stop the car, get out of the car,’” Cheeks said. “The cop saw that Giovonn had no intention of stopping so he fired.”

Once the car stopped after Joseph-McDade had been shot, Cheeks crawled out of the car and stayed on the ground until officers arrived.

As with Cheeks, Joseph-McDade also had prior arrests. He was booked on Jan. 18 in the King County jail on multiple charges, according to jail records. The charges included violation of the uniform controlled substances act; failure to appear in Kent Municipal Court for driving under the influence; and failure to appear in Kent Municipal Court for violations of a no-contact order.

Des Moines police reported that Joseph-McDade’s wallet contained 4.9 grams of methamphetamine. Investigators executed a search warrant on Joseph-McDade’s vehicle and recovered 69.2 grams of marijuana.

A Kent officer recruit rode along in Davis’ vehicle. The recruit also did a video reenactment with Des Moines detectives. She recalled the incident similar to what the two Kent officers and Cheeks described, including commands to get out of the car after police had stopped the Honda in the cul-de-sac.

“The driver then put the car in reverse, backed up to the grass and then put the car in drive,” she said. “Officer Davis then fired and called on the radio, ‘shots fired.’”

The recruit remained in the front passenger seat of the patrol vehicle.

“The car was coming at him,” the recruit said.

news@seattleweekly.com

This story originally appeared in the Kent Reporter.

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