Patrol: I-5 bridge driver menaced troopers before they fired
The State Patrol and Seattle Police Department continue their investigations into the bizarre incident on Monday that ended with a pickup driver’s death at a hospital after putting a chokehold on southbound I-5 traffic for nearly five hours.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Lynnwood couple were driving to Monday’s Mariners game at Safeco Field when a brown pickup sped by them on southbound Interstate 5 at the Ship Canal Bridge.
Suddenly, the truck stopped in the middle of the freeway.
Andrew Giles, like the many other drivers around him, slowed to a stop. He started to get out of his Honda Accord when the man in the pickup began “fiddling” in the back of the extended cab.
Flames erupted from the pickup, which was stopped just 10 feet from the Accord, Giles’ girlfriend, Jasmine Bill, said Tuesday.
The driver of the pickup, a tall, skinny man dressed in a green checked shirt, then got out of the truck. He had a can of green spray paint in one hand and a thick book, which Bill said appeared to be a Bible, in the other hand.
“I was scared,” Bill said. “I had a weird feeling. I saw we should drive. Let’s get out of here.”
They drove away as fast as they could and dialed 911, convinced the man planned to “blow up” the Ship Canal Bridge.
What the man’s intention was remained unclear Tuesday as the State Patrol and Seattle Police Department continued their investigation into the bizarre incident that ended with the pickup driver’s death and put a chokehold on southbound I-5 traffic for nearly five hours.
The man’s name isn’t expected to be released until Wednesday at the earliest, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Shortly after Giles and Bill encountered the man on the Ship Canal Bridge, State Patrol Troopers Andrew Boyer and Christopher Kyle were dispatched to the scene in response to numerous 911 calls reporting the flaming pickup blocking traffic.
As one trooper and a state Department of Transportation employee were extinguishing the fire, the second trooper walked toward the pickup driver. The man, who was 45 to 50 feet from his vehicle, was spraying green paint on the pavement and on other vehicles, the State Patrol said.
When the driver pulled out a large knife and began to approach the trooper, the second trooper went to help his colleague, according to the State Patrol.
One of the two troopers fired a Taser at the driver, but for some reason it did not have an effect on the man. It’s unclear whether the electric-shock prongs failed to make contact or whether the weapon was broken, the State Patrol said.
State Patrol spokesman Chris Webb would only say Tuesday that the device “was ineffective.”
As the armed man continued to advance, both troopers opened fire. The man was taken to Harborview Medical Center, where he later died.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Bill said. “Thankfully, nobody else was hurt.”
KING 5 reported investigators found an incendiary device inside the man’s pickup. The television station said it was described as a plastic bottle, roughly 1 liter in size, with a cannon fuse sticking out of it.
On Tuesday, Seattle police released audio recordings of 911 calls in which one caller matter-of-factly describes what was happening on the heavily traveled bridge at the end of rush hour.
“It looked bad,” the caller tells a dispatcher. “… The guy looks insane. You might want to, like, call police as well. Like, he literally looks crazy. He’s outside his car and the car is on fire ... holding something, like, putting his arms up in the air. It looked terrifying.”
In another call, a dispatcher is apparently alerting troopers that shots have been fired. The dispatcher described the pickup driver as a blond, bearded, middle-aged man.
With all southbound lanes closed, I-5 traffic was backed up for miles, even after express lanes were opened to southbound traffic. At 8 p.m., traffic was still backed up to near Northgate.
Northbound traffic through Seattle wasn’t much better, as drivers slowed to view the large police response on the Ship Canal Bridge.
The southbound lanes weren’t reopened until around midnight.
The closure came less than a week after the investigation of a crash on southbound Highway 99 south of the West Seattle Bridge snarled traffic throughout the city for hours.
The State Patrol has placed troopers Boyer and Kyle, both 29, on administrative leave while the case is investigated. Boyer, a seven-year veteran of the agency, and Kyle, who has been with the State Patrol for two years, had never before used deadly force on the job, according to the agency.
Boyer is the son of Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer.
Andrew Boyer made the news in September 2012 when he intentionally collided with a wrong-way driver in Seattle to prevent him from injuring others. In that incident, on Highway 520, Boyer positioned his car to be hit. He was not hurt, but his patrol car was damaged, according to published reports.
In the 2012 incident, Boyer was dispatched to a report of a driver going west in the eastbound lanes of Highway 520 in Seattle. Boyer had his lights and siren on when he saw the oncoming car just before midnight as a taxicab pulled out of Boyer’s way, according to the State Patrol. It left Boyer boxed in. The trooper knew he was going to be in a collision and took the path he hoped would minimize damage and stop the car.
Boyer was jarred but not injured.
The crash disabled the patrol car with a broken axle. The wrong-way car was able to drive away. It continued to Interstate 5, still going the wrong direction, before it broke down.
The driver got out and tried to run away by jumping over a barrier. He fell about 20 feet and was arrested by Seattle police.
Seattle Times staff reporter Christine Clarridge contributed to this story, which includes information from Times archives.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or email@example.com. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.