An SPD officer on site to assist with the city sweep of “The Jungle” homeless encampment in the Duwamish Greenbelt under I-5 yesterday afternoon shot and killed a man who was bearing a knife during a fight with another man, according to the SPD.
SPD chief Kathleen O’Toole told reporters that the police shooting was not specifically related to moving the two men out of the Jungle.
Public pressure increased on the city and mayor Ed Murray in January to address the Jungle, the homeless encampment located under I-5 in the Duwamish Greenbelt, when five people were shot and killed there. Last month, as a debate over how to address unauthorized homeless encampment sites in general became polarized between a crackdown approach and a more compassionate approach, the council approved a plan, 6-3, to sweep “the Jungle.” (The no votes were Lisa Herbold, Mike O’Brien, and Kshama Sawant.)
The female officer who shot the man yesterday has been put on administrative leave per protocol as the city reviews the incident.
After the shooting, Murray stood by the decision to sweep the Jungle.
Here’s the formal statement from the mayor’s office.
While details are still coming in, the Seattle Police Department is investigating an officer-involved shooting today in the East Duwamish Greenbelt.
I am in regular communication with Chief O’Toole as the SPD’s Force Investigation Team conducts a full investigation, along with the presence of the civilian-led Office of Professional Accountability. As always under the Consent Decree, the Department of Justice and the Federal Monitor will be engaged throughout the review of the incident.
At the same time, today’s operation in the Greenbelt was needed, both because of the long history of public safety issues in the area and because of the long-overdue work the Washington Department of Transportation needs to do on Interstate 5. We expect this work to continue at the conclusion of the investigation.
City council human services committee chair, council member Sally Bagshaw, who supported sweeping the Jungle, is currently heading up discussions on a bill to set protocols around sweeping unauthorized encampments in general. She said yesterday’s police shooting “is another tragedy and heightens awareness and concerns about encampments, drug addiction, and responses.”
Earlier this week, Bagshaw told the council that the legislation dealing with closing unauthorized encampments in general, which is being sponsored by O’Brien, is going to change “substantially” from the initial legislation as proposed by the ACLU, Columbia Legal Services, and the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness.
Critics of the original bill, including the mayor, said it was too permissive. While Bagshaw did support the Jungle sweep, she has been sounding a more progressive note on the macro legislation, pointing out that while allowing unauthorized encampments is controversial it may be a temporary necessity. O’Brien has been the most outspoken on that point and has faced off with bill critic, council member Tim Burgess several times over the issue. (I have a message in to O’Brien.) Simultaneously, though, even the leader of the progressive bloc on this issue, council member and ACLU ally Herbold, indicated the bill needed “significant” changes.
The issue before the council is defining what sites are “unsuitable” for encampments. Neighborhood groups are concerned that the definition of “unsuitable” sites will be to narrow and by default create “suitable” sites in their districts. Bruce Harrell, for example, said he would not support a bill that allowed unauthorized encampments in the newly refurbished Cheasty Greenbelt in Southeast Seattle. Herbold says current negotiations in advance of a new proposal that will be unveiled on Thursday have included “external stakeholders” like the Downtown Seattle Association, the International District, Pike Place Market, and the hotel association.
To sweep a “suitable” unauthorized encampment, the original bill said the city had to provide 30 days’ notice and offer the people living at the sites alternative shelter and services. “Unsuitable” sites—spots that are unsafe or hazardous or disrupt public access such as camps on schools, near major arterials, sites where human waste and garbage and needles have accumulated, or camps on active park space like play fields—is apparently being vetted to make the definition more specific.
Murray spokesman Benton Strong confirmed that Murray will veto any encampment proposal that allows unauthorized encampments in public parks.
Bagshaw told me there are “multiple options” under discussion for her human services committee meeting this Friday. She added that, “if there’s no consensus, there’s no vote.”
I’ve asked her to clarify “consensus,” but it takes six votes to override a mayoral veto.