Investigation, absences challenge Issaquah police

September 27, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

The investigation into the officer-involved shooting death of a Maple Valley man and a manpower shortage created dual challenges for the Issaquah Police Department in the days after the Sept. 24 shootout.

The police department placed the four officers involved in the shooting on paid administrative leave after the incident on the Clark Elementary School campus, per standard procedure. The officers involved in the shooting could return to work a little more than a week after the incident, although the date depends on when the investigation is completed.

Because the police department is involved in the death, the King County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation into the Sept. 24 incident and the fatal shooting.

“It’s a tragic situation, and there’s no one that wouldn’t like this situation to turn out differently, but the person made some decisions. Our officers reacted the way we train them,” Issaquah Police Chief Paul Ayers said Sept. 26. “They acted properly. They acted professionally. It’s not like they see on TV. They did the best job they could. They did a very good job of stopping the threat and putting no one else in danger.”

MORE COVERAGE

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King County Executive Dow Constantine is expected to order a prosecutor-led inquest into the shooting, another routine procedure in officer-involved shootings. The inquest is a fact-finding hearing conducted before a jury to determine the causes and circumstances of any death involving a member of a law enforcement agency within King County.

“The public very much understands that in response to someone firing at police that it’s expected that the police would shoot back,” Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger said.

The officers’ absence from the police force also posed a challenge for the agency.

The department includes 32 sworn officers for a 30,000-resident city, so the gap in personnel prompted the police department to reschedule personnel and offer overtime to compensate for the officers on leave. Officials said city residents should not notice a decrease in service or a lag in police response due to the change.

Frisinger said the incident on the Clark Elementary campus reminded residents about possible threats, even in a low-crime community such as Issaquah.

“It heightens an awareness of the way in which random violence can happen in any community,” she said. “We are a safe community and the rapidness of the response, I believe, demonstrates that. I would say that there is not something that would have been done differently in response to somebody showing up and randomly shooting.”

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