01/29/2007

Off-duty Wash. officer fatally shoots gunman

By Scott Gutierrez, P-I reporter
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

An off-duty King County sheriff's sergeant shot and killed an attempted robbery suspect Friday night on Western Avenue just south of the Pike Place Market.

The sergeant said he witnessed a man with a gun robbing another person and intervened, said Jeff Kappel, Seattle police spokesman.

The attempted robbery occurred on the sidewalk in the 1400 block of Western, Kappel said.

The gunman was taken to Harborview Medical Center, where he died.

Seattle police are handling the investigation at the request of the Sheriff's Office. Police recovered a handgun at the scene, Kappel said.

The officer, 61, a 38-year veteran with the Sheriff's Office, was uninjured, Kappel said. He told police he was walking down Western when he overheard some commotion behind him, Kappel said.

He turned around to see one man pointing a handgun at another, the spokesman said.

"He identified himself as a police officer and drew his service weapon," Kappel said. As the gunman turned toward the sergeant, the sergeant fired, he added.

The gunman was shot in the torso.

Several witnesses said they heard shots just before 9 p.m.

One woman who lives in an apartment above the scene on Western said she heard what sounded like "two pops." Another woman who lives in the same building also said she heard two quick shots that sounded like firecrackers going off.

Police stretched yellow crime-scene tape across Western, closing the street for several blocks.

The sergeant involved in the shooting was walking investigators through the shooting scene late Friday. He was in plain clothes.

It was the second officer-involved shooting in the city in the past two weeks and the third this month. On Jan 17, a Seattle police officer was wounded in a shootout that left a gunman dead on Aurora Avenue North near North 90th Street. In that case, two Seattle officers in an unmarked van came upon an ensuing shootout and ended up shooting the gunman, Robert P. Sullivan, 28, who had long criminal record.

A shooting Jan. 4 in the Aurora Avenue area also left a suspected car thief wounded after he allegedly tried to drive a stolen Lexus at an officer on foot.

In September, another off-duty Seattle police officer, Zsolt Dornay, shot a man in Post Alley above Pike Place Market after the officer was attacked when he got into a fight with a woman after trying to ride his motorcycle through a crowd.

In 2002, the Sheriff's Office came under heavy criticism for its handling of the shooting of Robert Thomas Sr., a black man, by a white, off-duty sheriff's deputy.

Copyright 2007 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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