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Originally published September 24, 2012 at 11:30 AM | Page modified September 25, 2012 at 3:45 PM

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Chief: Police shooting of man with dementia a 'tragic incident'

The man shot and killed at a South Seattle home late Sunday was identified by family members as Henry Lee Sr., and they say he suffered from dementia.

Seattle Times staff reporters

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Seattle Police Chief John Diaz said the fatal shooting by officers of an armed man who suffered from dementia was a "tragic incident."

Diaz expressed his condolences to the family of 77-year-old Henry Lee Sr. during a news conference Tuesday morning at Seattle police headquarters.

Police say Lee pointed a handgun at three officers who responded to a 911 call he reportedly placed on Sunday evening, prompting them to fatally shoot the retired construction worker.

The two officers who opened fire on Lee Sr. have been placed on administrative reassignment, which is routine after police shootings.

Deputy Police Chief Nick Metz identified the officers Tuesday as Daina Boggs, a 19-year veteran, and Nate Patterson, a seven-year veteran. Boggs fired twice and Patterson fired once, Metz said.

Lee Sr. was struck once.

Lee Sr. suffered from dementia and Alzheimer's disease, but still managed to live alone in his longtime Rainier View home, according to his family.

His grandson, Gabriel Lee, said his grandfather's memory-related illnesses had become more pronounced over the past three years.

"He was still competent, but he was really forgetful," Gabriel Lee said. "He used to have a lot of guns, but my dad took most of them away."

"We're grieving," the dead man's son, Henry Lee Jr., said Monday.

He said police haven't told his family much, and they want to learn more about what led to the shooting.

The elder Lee had called 911 around 11 p.m. Sunday to report hearing noises, possibly "a prowler," outside his home, police spokesman Mark Jamieson said.

Dispatchers told the man that the noises he was hearing might be coming from in front of his house, in the 6300 block of South Bangor Street, where Seattle police and Seattle Fire Department medics were responding to an unrelated medical emergency involving a disoriented 50-year-old man who had returned to his car.

Metz said that the man told dispatchers that he had a gun and would kill anyone who went into his house. He said dispatchers told the man to put the gun down and stay inside and that they would have police come talk to him.

Police were told the man was agitated, upset and angry.

Metz said officers were not aware of any medical condition when they responded to the home Sunday night.

Three officers approached the home, Metz said. As they were at a trellis separating his yard from the sidewalk they saw a man in the doorway holding a silver handgun, Metz said.

Metz said firefighters and other witnesses heard police order the man to "drop the gun" several times. The man lowered the gun, but then raised it again and two of the officers fired, he said.

Lee Sr. was pronounced dead near the doorway of his home, Metz said.

During a Monday news conference, Metz was asked by Harriett Walden, a vocal opponent of police violence, whether a Taser should have been used as a less-lethal option.

"We don't train our officers to use a Taser when they are facing a gun," Metz said.

One of Lee Sr.'s sisters said that he grew up in Picayune, Miss., the oldest of seven children.

Speaking by phone from her home in Louisiana, the sister, who asked not to be identified, said that she spoke with her brother on Sunday evening before the shooting.

"He was feeling fine. He kind of comes and goes. Sometimes he was alert, and sometimes he got really, really agitated," she said. "He slept most of the day and was up most of the night."

Gabriel Lee said his grandfather was always good to his family.

"He was always nice to me," the grandson said. "He took me fishing when I was a kid."

Monique Williams, Lee Sr.'s niece, said that their family is angry with police for not recognizing that he was mentally ill.

"I feel there could have been other methods. They could have Tased him. He was an older man, and he was a sick man. It's just wrong how they went in and did that to him," Williams said.

Bob Le Roy, the president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association of Western and Central Washington, said that it isn't uncommon for Alzheimer's and dementia patients to become easily suspicious or afraid of strange noises or people.

"Part of the problem is they are very easily confused. They can mistake someone they know for someone else. It's not hard to imagine that this gentleman could have seen the police officer and considered him a threat," Le Roy said.

Seattle Times staff reporter Sara Jean Green and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan

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