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Bellevue SWAT members cleared in 2013 shooting death

This photo taken during an investigation into the March 2012 shooting death of Russell Wilson by Bellevue SWAT members shows evidence cards placed where numerous bullet casings were found. - King County Prosecutor
This photo taken during an investigation into the March 2012 shooting death of Russell Wilson by Bellevue SWAT members shows evidence cards placed where numerous bullet casings were found.
— image credit: King County Prosecutor's Office

A six-member jury found members of the Bellevue SWAT team who shot a Seattle man to death in March 2013 were justified in their actions at the conclusion of a four-day inquest on Thursday.

Russell Smith was shot inside his Mercedes Benz on the early morning of March 22, 2013, after Bellevue SWAT members approached his vehicle on the 5000 block of 43rd Avenue South in Seattle to serve an arrest warrant and search his property. He was suspected of at least three robberies in Bellevue and two in Seattle going back to November 2012.

The 51-year-old Seattle laborer is alleged to have backed out of his driveway, striking a pickup, before accelerating forward at several SWAT members who fired on him after they reported fearing for their safety. Three officers collectively fired 21 times and Smith was hit eight times, one bullet entering his brain.

King County Executive Dow Constantine ordered an inquest into the shooting back in June. The hearing before a six-member jury was set to start in early December, however, it was pushed back twice after Smith's family retained an attorney.

Jacob Bement, Casey Hiam and Jacob Childers, identified as the officers responsible for the 21 shots that struck the Mercedes and the eight that struck Smith — one fatal shot to the head — were found by the jury to have had reason to believe Smith presented an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to himself or others.

In their interrogatories — a series of 29 questions related to the inquest — all jurors agreed the details of March 22, 2013, as reported by numerous Bellevue and Seattle officers, were accurate. All six jurors, however, were unsure whether it was likely anyone around Smith's Columbia City residence that morning would have been able to visually identify the SWAT members' uniforms given the available lighting.

Russell Smith was a dangerous felon who was wanted for a string of armed robberies," the Bellevue Police Department stated in a release Thursday. "Instead of complying with police commands and surrendering, he tried to use his car as a deadly weapon against the officers. Mr. Smith was shot as a result of his own."

The department reports Police Chief Linda Pillo has ordered a firearms review board convene to determine if the officers' actions followed department policy. The board will consist of a deputy chief, commander of the department's training unit, commander of the patrol section and the department legal advisor. The board is set to meet early next week and no further statements will be made until the review board releases its findings.

 

 

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