Man killed by Seattle police was mentally ill, neighbors say
The 21-year-old man fatally shot by Seattle police Tuesday night had paranoid schizophrenia and had been convicted of assaulting a woman in 2011.
Seattle Times staff reporters
First 911 call
Seattle Police Department
Second 911 call
Seattle Police Department
Third 911 call
Seattle Police Department
Neighbors who live on a quiet cul-de-sac just south of Carkeek Park said the 21-year-old man fatally shot by Seattle police Tuesday night had paranoid schizophrenia and was “always scared” of the demons and ghosts that haunted him.
Though there were times he broke furniture or lashed out when he went off his medications, they described Jack Keewatinawin as childlike and said he often played or rode his bike with children in the neighborhood.
“I was never afraid of him,” said Courtney Lewis, who lives with her boyfriend and two sons in the other half of the duplex Keewatinawin shared with his father. “He was sick, so he was like a 10-year-old. If he was acting up, I treated him like the other neighborhood kids and would tell him to knock it off. He always calms down.”
Keewatinawin, who pleaded guilty to third-degree assault with sexual motivation in May, was wanted on an arrest warrant issued in January after he failed to report to his community corrections officer and service provider, according to court records and the state Department of Corrections.
According to Seattle police, officers were called to a domestic disturbance at a home in the 10100 block of Fourth Avenue Northwest around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, where a 911 caller said a man was holding a knife to his father’s throat. Police managed to separate the two men, and the younger man emerged from the house.
He attempted to go back inside once his father had been moved away, police said. Officers tried to use a Taser on him, but it was ineffective. He then ran south and was pursued by officers who attempted to use a Taser a second time, again to no effect.
The man abruptly stopped next to a parked car “in an area that had very little ambient lighting,” police said. One of the officers slipped on the wet ground and fell on his back, landing near the man, according to police.
“The suspect withdrew a long piece of metal from his beltline and raised it over his head, and came toward the officer,” police said Wednesday. “The three officers were forced to fire their weapons to defend themselves, striking the suspect.”
The long metal object turned out to be an 18-inch- long piece of rebar, according to police.
The man was taken to Harborview Medical Center, where he later died.
Police plan to hold a news conference on the shooting Thursday. The three officers involved are on paid administrative leave, which is standard in officer-involved shooting investigations.
Keewatinawin’s father, who has been ill, witnessed the shooting, said Lewis’ boyfriend, who asked not to be named.
He said the elder Keewatinawin told him later that his son had been yelling during a trip to a nearby QFC grocery store and on the walk home. The father called one of his other sons and asked him to call 911.
Soon after the father and son returned to the house, officers with guns drawn took up positions at the entrance to the cul-de-sac, the boyfriend said. Afraid the officers were about to shoot, he and Lewis took her sons into a backroom. Seconds later, gunshots rang out.
Lewis said police had been called to the house a handful of times in the past two years when Keewatinawin was off his medication.
“They’d talk to him, and Jack would sit on the curb until they put him in an ambulance and took him to the hospital,” she said.
“They absolutely should’ve known who he is” and that he was mentally ill, Lewis said of the officers who responded Tuesday night. “He must’ve been so scared.”
Lewis’ boyfriend said the family is Cree, and had previously lived in Canada and Montana. Translated, their last name is “Northwind” in English.
The boyfriend said it was his father who gave Keewatinawin a length of rebar, which the younger man usually kept hidden behind his couch cushions.
“He was a big guy, but he was scared all the time. Demons and ghosts — that’s what he always talked about,” he said.
Chuck Bagi, who lives across the street, called the shooting “totally unacceptable,” noting that at least one bullet went through the front window of the house next door to where Keewatinawin collapsed on the front lawn. Another bullet went through the side of the same house, he said.
“I think it’s highly suspect when you fire off eight rounds in a cul-de-sac full of kids,” said Bagi, who heard the gunshots. “It’s a complete overreaction. It’s a reckless use of force.”
A settlement agreement reached in July between the Department of Justice and the city of Seattle calls for police to look for ways to de-escalate confrontations and, within safe bounds, decrease their use of force.
Under the agreement, police are to continue training officers in crisis intervention and ensure that a trained officer is “available on all shifts to respond to incidents ... involving individuals known or suspected to have a mental illness.”
A department spokesman couldn’t say Wednesday whether officers with crisis-intervention training responded to the North Seattle scene Tuesday night, or if officers had any knowledge of Keewatinawin’s apparent mental-health issues.
According to court records, Keewatinawin was arrested in October 2011 after he called 911 to report that he had just attacked a woman jogging through nearby Carkeek Park.
According to King County Superior Court documents, Keewatinawin was charged with second-degree assault with intent to commit rape in October 2011.
Keewatinawin was sitting on a park bench along an isolated, wooded trail at the park when a woman jogged by, according to charging documents. In what one police officer described as a “completely unprovoked” attack, he ran up behind the woman, grabbed her in a choke hold, threw her to the ground and then pushed her head to the ground.
The victim was able to fight him off by kicking and punching him and pulling his long hair “until the suspect gave up,” police said.
Keewatinawin apologized to the woman and fled the park, according to police. As he ran, he dialed 911 and reported that he’d just attacked a woman in the park, police said.
Keewatinawin later pleaded guilty to third-degree assault with sexual motivation. According to the King County Sheriff’s Office website, Keewatinawin was a Level II sex offender with a listed address on Capitol Hill.
Norah West, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections (DOC), said Wednesday that a warrant had been issued for Keewatinawin’s arrest on Jan. 28 after he failed to report to his community corrections officer and his treatment provider.
West said Keewatinawin had been under DOC supervision since Dec. 6, 2012.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.