Cops and Conduct

Seattle Cops Who Shot Che Taylor Sue Kshama Sawant for Calling It ‘Murder’

Officers Scott Miller and Michael Spaulding say the fiery socialist defamed their reputations.

Seattle city councilmember Kshama Sawant. Photo by Seattle City Council via Wikimedia Commons

The pair of Seattle police officers who shot Che Taylor to death in 2016 have filed a defamation lawsuit against Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant for calling the shooting “murder.”

“This is not a complaint against the City of Seattle or its City Council. The plaintiffs do not want one red cent of public money,” reads the complaint, via The Seattle Times. “This is a Complaint seeking damages against one individual who, acting in her own capacity and only on her own behalf, defamed two good men. Police officers, Scott Miller and Michael Spaulding, do a hard job for modest pay and little thanks—realities they accept. But what they do not accept, and what the law does not permit, is having their reputations ruined by an ambitious politician.”

Spaulding and Miller shot Taylor to death under suspicious circumstances last year. As our own Rick Anderson put it, “The officers, fearing for their lives, fired at Taylor from point-blank range after not seeing a gun in his hand. They nonetheless assumed he was about to shoot them.”

A police review board cleared the shooting and a jury inquest later concluded that both officers feared for their lives, which in Washington State is sufficient legal justification for a police killing. Both are still officers with SPD.

The slaying was one more in a long pattern of police officers killing unarmed black men (and others) that Americans have seen with increasing frequency since smartphones became ubiquitous. It inspired protests and marches where thousands decried police violence, in Seattle and across the country.

Sawant—a “socialist folk hero,” according to the suit—was among them. “Approximately five days after the shooting, Sawant appeared before a crowd and media in front of the police department,” reads the complaint. “She went on to pronounce Che Taylor’s death a ‘brutal murder’ and a product of ‘racial profiling.’”

Because the shooting was cleared by police and an inquest, the complaint argues, Sawant’s characterization of the killing as “murder” defames the character of the two police officers.

Sawant did not immediately respond to request for comment. She is also facing a defamation lawsuit from slumlord Carl Haglund, for calling him a “slumlord.”

cjaywork@seattleweekly.com

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