King County executive orders inquest into Issaquah police shooting
December 27, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 11:10 a.m. Dec. 27, 2011
King County Executive Dow Constantine on Tuesday ordered a prosecutor-led inquest into the lethal shootout at Clark Elementary School — a standard procedure in officer-involved shootings.
The action came a little more than three months after Ronald W. Ficker, 51, trekked across downtown Issaquah, brandishing rifles at passers-by. The bizarre episode ended on the elementary school campus as police officers and Ficker exchanged gunfire.
In the days before the Sept. 24 incident, Ficker told others, “Something big is going to happen.” Then, the day before the shootout, he rented a Kia sedan at a Seattle rental car counter, drove more than 450 miles and, just after 11 a.m. Sept. 24, abandoned the car at a downtown Issaquah intersection and set off to Clark Elementary.
Calls from 911 flooded city and county dispatchers, as law enforcement officers from around the region raced to the school.
Issaquah officers encountered Ficker on campus. The gunman fired at least 11 shots at police. Officers returned fire and shot Ficker at a distance greater than the length of a football field.
Meanwhile, on the nearby Issaquah High School campus nearby, coaches, parents and young athletes huddled beneath metal bleachers during the shootout.
Though the incident ended less than 60 minutes after Ficker abandoned the Kia sedan downtown, the subsequent investigation caused Issaquah to grind to a near-standstill for hours, as police collected evidence from the car and the shooting scene on the Clark Elementary campus.
In the days after the shootout, Issaquah Police Chief Paul Ayers put the officers involved in the shooting on paid administrative leave, per standard procedure. The officers returned to duty in the weeks after the incident.
(Ficker lived in unincorporated Maple Valley just south of Issaquah.)
Constantine’s order directs King County District Court Presiding Judge Barbara Linde to assign a judge to set a date and conduct the inquest.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg recommended the investigation after the Prosecutor’s Office reviewed materials from the King County Sheriff’s Office — the lead investigator in the case, because the incident involved Issaquah police officers.
The inquest is a fact-finding hearing conducted before a six-member jury. Such a panel is called to determine the circumstances in officer-involved shootings in King County.
Inquest jurors answer a series of questions to determine the factual issues involved in the case, but the jury does not determine whether a person or agency is civilly or criminally liable for the incident.
Officials said inquests provide transparency into law enforcement actions for the public.