|Takin' care of business, Seattle PD|
For the last couple of days, I've been puzzling over a police killing in Seattle. Stephen Johnston of 314 W. Prospect St, in the Queen Anne district, was "fatally wounded" by police riflemen on August 31. He had purchased his historic home about a year previously for some $2.2 million. He was, one suspects, one of "those people" who never get a police gun pointed at them.
Who was he, and what happened?
I'm not at all sure.
The stories in the media are murky at best. Claims have been made that the police had been called to the home the day before the ultimate shooting, but the reason is somewhat obscure. There was a 911 call, apparently from Johnston, on Friday. Police arrived, found the front door wide open and inspected the home -- which they said was "trashed". They didn't find Johnston or anyone else. They left.
That night, they went back to the house to arrest Johnston for making threats to kill his wife -- who was said to be in eastern Washington at the time. But they did not find him. Saturday, they received a 911 call that shots were being fired in the neighborhood. The caller is not known. Was it Johnston?
Upon returning to the neighborhood, police brought snipers with them.
Johnston apparently appeared on his front porch, armed with an AK-47, and started firing at officers (according to them, at any rate-- this story later changed to say that police didn't know what or who Johnston was firing at). Two police snipers fired at Johnston, wounding him. He retreated -- crawling -- back into the house. Police ordered him to come out, but he didn't. They sent a robot in. The robot espied his corpse on the floor. Police entered and found Johnston's dead body, his arsenal of weapons near the front door and a bulletproof vest.
The end. All of this from amalgamated stories in the Seattle media.
The media reports don't add up. Not yet.
Who Stephen Johnson was and how he got his money is the main mystery at the moment.
The fact that he was shot by police from across the street is interesting because of the terrain. How they ever got a shot at him at all is a question given that the house is on a rise and the house across the street is well below it. There are plenty of trees and shrubs in the way as well. The fact that he was shot at all is even more interesting. A rich, middle aged white man would be very unlikely to be shot by police, even if armed, and potentially even if firing.
But it happened in Seattle.
Naturally, neighbors -- while disturbed by the hoo-hah of it all -- feel it was a justified reaction by police. What else could they do?
Johnston's family is said to have returned to the house on Sunday but declined to be interviewed.
There is a story here. I wonder if we will ever see or hear it?
A few news reports in no particular order:
This is the listing for the house that the Johnstons bought last year for $2.something million. This is not the kind of place that your average summary execution target lives in by any means. So this case remains an outlier, a peculiarity, a question mark. Who was he, really? And why did the police head out there for the third time with snipers prepared to kill on command? If we can find out the answers to these and other questions about this case, we may be able to comprehend why it is that so many, many ordinary people, not rich or necessarily white, are summarily executed by police every month. A hundred a month.