An unidentified gunman, later revealed to be a King County detective, sticks up a motorcyclist at gunpoint. Screenshot via YouTube user Squid Tips, aka Alex Randall

Watchdog Praises Sheriff’s Response to ‘Troubling’ Traffic Stop

A county detective is on leave after sticking a gun in a driver’s face without identifying himself.

On Monday, a video published online showing a King County motorcyclist holding his hands up at gunpoint. The gunman was a middle aged, balding white man wearing a dark green polo shirt, a navy blue windbreaker, and dark sunglasses. Casually aiming a black semiautomatic pistol at the motorcyclist, the gunman reached into the motorcyclist’s pocket and pulled something out.

“That’s my wallet,” said the motorcyclist.

“Yep,” said the gunman.

“You have a gun drawn on me, so I’m a little panicked,” said the motorcyclist.

“You’re right, because I’m the police,” replied the gunman. Thirty seconds had passed since he first appeared next to the motorcyclist. Behind the motorcyclist was an unmarked police car with emergency lights flashing but no siren. Careful review of the video shows a badge hanging from the gunman’s right pants pocket, but because of how he faced the motorcyclist that badge wasn’t visible during the encounter.

While examining the identification he found in the motorcyclist’s wallet, the gunman absentmindedly holstered his weapon. See the full video here:

YouTube user Squid Tips (identified as Alex Randall by KIRO 7) published the video on Monday. According to the video’s title, the actual stickup occurred on Wednesday, August 16. In text included in the video, Randall says that he has filed complaints with the Sheriff’s Department, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO). “The video shows the boldness of the King County Sheriffs Deputies and lack of fear of repurcussions in threatening and intimidating an unarmed citizen with excessive use of force,” he wrote.

In response to the video, on Monday afternoon King County Sheriff John Urquhart posted on his personal Facebook page that “I have ordered the detective [i.e. gunman] to be placed on administrative leave as of Tuesday morning pending a full investigation of the facts.

“With the caveat that I have not yet heard the other side of the story, I was deeply disturbed with the conduct and tactics that were recorded,” he wrote. Urquhart told KIRO 7 that he plans to use the video as a training tool for new recruits, so they “know specifically what they’re not allowed to do.”

Spokesperson Sgt. Cindi West said that the name of the detective will be released on Wednesday after 5 p.m., per department policy to withhold officer names from the public for 48 hours after an incident.

According to OLEO, the Sheriff department’s internal investigation team has 180 days to investigate the stickup; that deadline is mandated by the police union’s contract. Afterwards, OLEO will review and certify (or not) the investigation to ensure it was “thorough and objective,” said director Deborah Jacobs, who called the video “troubling.”

Jacobs praised Urquhart’s quick response to the video. “I think that’s exactly right: it’s a great example of what not to do during a traffic stop.” It also validates other allegations of similar conduct by police, she said. “You hear all the time, ‘The cop didn’t identify himself.’ A lot of times those complaints are discarded, and this is a chance to say, ‘No, actually this does happen.’

“This is an open investigation,” she added, “but it’s hard to imagine circumstances that would call for conduct like that.

cjaywork@seattleweekly.com

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