Officer who subdued ax-wielding man faces discipline, video released

Officer Nick Guzley faces a possible suspension after a complaint was filed about his “failure to de-escalate” the situation


By PoliceOne Staff

SEATTLE — Recently released body cam footage shows an ax-wielding man being subdued by a Seattle officer, who now faces discipline for his handling of the situation.

KOMO News reports that Officer Nick Guzley faces a possible suspension after a complaint was filed about his “failure to de-escalate” the situation.

On Aug. 8, 2017, police said the man, identified as 46-year-old James Ray Smith, stole an ice ax from an REI store and threatened an employee who tried to stop him from leaving the store, according to KIRO. Officers tracked Smith down and called for backup after the man threatened them.

"He's been looking back at me, and he's holding it up like this like he's going to swing it at me," one officer can be heard saying in the video.

Officers repeatedly told Smith to stop and put down the ice ax, but he refused to follow commands. Officers followed Smith into a narrow corridor, where police tried to press in and warned him that they would TASER him if he kept ignoring orders.

When Smith turned his back to officers, Guzley rushed up from behind and puts his arms around Smith to apprehend him.

Kevin Stuckey, the president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, said Guzley’s actions were “commendable.”

“The alternative is to continue to let him keep walking, until he walks into somebody while he’s clearly having a mental break, and he hits them in the head. And then what? Then the question would be, ‘Why didn't you act sooner?’,” Stuckey said.

But one of Guzley’s own supervisors made a complaint for “failure to de-escalate” to the Office of Police Accountability. The recommendation is for Guzley to be suspended for two days without pay.

Guzley will have one more chance to plead his case during a due process hearing on May 11. Chief Carmen Best will ultimately make the final decision.

Smith, who has an extensive criminal history, was convicted of robbery and is in prison.

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