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Originally published Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 11:17 AM

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Armed man shot by Kent cops was ill and wanted to be killed, family says

The family of a Kent man thinks he intended to be killed when he armed himself and confronted police Wednesday near the Kent Transit Center.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The armed man fatally shot Wednesday by Kent police was a terminally ill Vietnam veteran who had been deeply depressed, according to his adult daughters.

The three women and their mother, who had been married to the man for more than 20 years before they divorced a few years ago, cried and held each other soon after arriving near the Kent Transit Center, where the shooting occurred.

"I believe he came down here with the intent to be killed by police. He wouldn't hurt anybody," said the man's youngest daughter, declining to give her name or the name of her father.

The man, whose name has not been released by authorities, had been depressed and frustrated with his declining health, medical care and the amount of medication he was required to take, said his daughters. They said he was terminally ill and suffered from diabetes, hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the liver.

"He's the type that would give you the shirt off his back. He wouldn't threaten anybody," said his eldest daughter. "He's always just been so strong. I don't understand how this could be the end of it."

At 9:10 a.m., Kent police received a 911 call from a Far West cabdriver who was concerned about his passenger, said Cathy Schrock, spokeswoman for the Federal Way Police Department, which is investigating the shooting. The cabbie, who pulled over at the transit center and was able to get out of the cab, told the 911 operator his passenger held a rifle or shotgun across his knees, she said.

The man, a Kent resident in his mid-50s, was confronted by two officers, Schrock said.

"The man exited the cab and immediately the police officers were giving him verbal commands. He was pulling out a long gun" when one officer, a three-year veteran of the force, fired at the man, killing him, she said.

The man's body fell on the east sidewalk of Railroad Avenue North and was covered with a yellow tarp. A red baseball cap lay nearby and a gun — which appeared to be a shotgun — was in the street, close to the man's feet.

Cabbie Shumet Mekonen said the driver of the Far West cab told him he had picked up the armed man earlier in the morning at a residence in Kent and the man hired the driver for the day for $500. The passenger asked to be driven to a store in the East Hill area, where he purchased ammunition, Mekonen said.

The Far West cabbie contacted another Far West cabdriver and asked him to meet him at the transit center, Mekonen said. When the second Far West cab arrived, the driver of the first cab — which he had parked behind Mekonen's Green Cab — jumped into his friend's taxi and called 911.

Mekonen didn't witness the shooting but said he heard a single gunshot.

"I was just reading a book, waiting for a fare. I didn't even look behind me," Mekonen said. "After the shot, the sirens came.

"I saw him fall back, and they [the officers] told me, 'Stay where you're at,' so I stayed in the car," he said.

Police are trying to determine the route of the cab after the man was picked up at his Kent home, Schrock said. She said it's unclear whether the man fired at police before he was shot.

The man's daughters said he had nine grandchildren with two more on the way. A movie buff and a sports enthusiast "with a sense of humor beyond belief," the man had suffered recent deaths in the family, his eldest daughter said.

He was being treated at the veterans hospital "and spent hours there each day," she said. "Some days he'd have worse days than others."

The most recent shooting involving Kent police was March 29, when officers shot a man after he pointed a gun at them at 23300 61st Ave. S. The man survived.

Renton police are investigating that shooting.

Seattle Times staff reporter Susan Gilmore contributed to this report.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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