Saturday, March 23, 2013

armies of occupation

There was a police shooting in South Seattle yesterday morning at about   5 a.m. The Bellevue Swat Team (I'll explain in a minute what they were doing in Seattle) killed a  robbery suspect they say tried to run over them.

This is going to be another one of those messy, bitter, controversies involving possible police misconduct. If the evidence against the cops is weak, there won't even be a hearing. If it's strong, there'll be a hearing at the end of which the cops will be let off, because they're pretty much allowed to do whatever they want.

A reporter who's trying to get at the truth (is there any other reason to report anything?) is usually faced with a minimum of two, conflicting, partisan versions of these events, and must sift and compare details.

An eyewitness account of the shooting ran in the Seattle Free Press this morning, and shows the danger of relying overly much on one source. This may be a genuine eyewitness account, but it's not served well by the headline writer's mistakenly naming Bellevue as  where the shooting happened. First rule of journalism and pretty much anything else you can name: pay attention to fundamentals.

Other than that, the Free Press/eyewitness version of the story differs significantly from the Seattle Times's version only in its handling of question of whether the dead man was a danger to police. The Free Press version says "no," and the witness says he has pictures which prove the dead man  was not the least danger to the cops who killed him. The Times simply reproduces the police version of the sequence of events.

After reading the conflicting versions of this story, I have no conclusions to draw, but I do have several questions.

1. Why was the Bellevue Tac Squad doing an operation in Seattle? Why was it necessary to send a Tac squad in full riot gear to serve a robbery warrant? Are these police, or an army of occupation?

2. Why is the deceased's name still unknown? Was this an assassination?

3. If the police acted illegally, will anyone be held to account?

That last question is the most important, and up until now the answer has always been "no," except now we're to the point where that's got to change.

This story is far from over.

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