FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 6, 2020
CONTACT: Carolyn Riley-Payne, President, NAACP Seattle King County via
NAACP Executive Committee members KL Shannon and Police Accountability Chair Teri Rogers Kemp
PHONE: Teri Rogers Kemp 206-518-7088
KL Shannon 206-890-4422
The NAACP Seattle King County sends its sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Shaun Fuhr, the victim of the homicide death by the Seattle Police Department, committed on April 29, 2020. The NAACP-SKC demands a thorough independent criminal homicide investigation of Mr. Fuhr’s death.
Homicide is defined in Title 9A, Washington Criminal Code, of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), at 9A.32.010; as “the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or omission of another, death occurring at any time, and is either (1) murder, (2) homicide by abuse, (3) manslaughter, (4) excusable homicide, or (5) justifiable homicide.” Each of those types of homicides are defined in the RCW. Homicide is a crime.
From the video the Seattle Police Department (SPD) provided, it appears Mr. Fuhr was being chased by police officers running after him down a narrow resident’s walkway in between the side of a building and a six-foot or taller fence, while carrying his one-year old toddler girl, when suddenly he drops, apparently shot in the head.
“Homicide or the use of deadly force is justifiable …when necessarily used by a police officer meeting the good faith standard of this section …to arrest or apprehend a person who the police officer reasonably believes has committed or is attempting to commit a felony.” In considering whether to use deadly force under such circumstances, “the officer must have probable cause to believe that if the person is not apprehended, he poses a threat of serious physical harm to the officer… or to others.” See RCW 9A.16.040.
Among the circumstances that may be considered by police officers as a “threat of serious physical harm” are the following: “the person threatens a police officer with a weapon or displays a weapon, in a manner that could reasonably be construed as threatening, or, there is probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed any crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm. Under these circumstances, deadly force may also be used if necessary to prevent escape from the officer, where, if feasible, some warning is given, provided the officer meets the good faith standard of this section.”
From the SPD video it does not appear that the deadly force used by the officer was necessary. From the video it appears that at no time did Mr. Fuhr display a weapon at the police or any other person as he was being chased and no talk of a weapon by the officers is heard on the video audio while they are chasing him down. SPD Chief Carmen Best has stated that the officers “engaged” Mr. Fuhr; however, the video shows that the police chased the victim and shot him, without apparent warning. From the video it is apparent that Mr. Fuhr did not see or hear the shot coming.
The NAACP-SKC decries the shooting and killing of this young man while his baby was in his arms. According to the Chief the child’s safety was the priority: “they were very concerned about the welfare of the baby”. That shot by the police officer belies those statements. The officer who killed Mr. Fuhr shot at him while he was holding his little girl, and while he was running. It is absolutely unacceptable that the officer demonstrated such utter disregard for the life and safety of the child.
Some homicide crimes may be excused or justified: “A police officer shall not be held criminally liable for using deadly force in good faith, where ‘good faith’ is an objective standard which shall consider all the facts, circumstances, and information known to the officer at the time to determine whether a similarly situated reasonable officer would have believed that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious physical harm to the officer or another individual.” RCW 9A.16.040.
The NAACP recognizes that SPD officers were responding to a 911 call where information was given by an apparently distraught caller who thought that the victim had a firearm, that he had taken their child and left, and that the caller was concerned for the child’s well-being. Nevertheless, it appears that the officer who fired the shot unnecessarily used deadly force in an extreme, reckless manner that posed a threat of serious physical harm to the child in the victim’s arms and that besides his life; the victim’s civil rights too, may have been violated.
Shaun Fuhr was a 24-year-old man who was a son, a brother, a father, and a friend. No doubt, his family and friends will dearly miss him. His death is a tragedy. The NAACP-SKC demands a thorough, professional, complete, independent criminal investigation of the homicide death of Shaun Fuhr, whether or not ultimately the crime is determined to be justified or excused.
President, NAACP Seattle King County