Report: June officer-involved shooting occurred as suspect was seeking cover | Lieutenant says he feared ‘gunfight’

An investigation report regarding an officer-involved shooting in Bellevue in early June reveals a veteran lieutenant shot at a suspect armed with a pellet gun while he was seeking cover from police following a brief standoff where he used his girlfriend/ex-wife as a human shield.

An investigation report regarding an officer-involved shooting in Bellevue in early June reveals a veteran lieutenant shot at a suspect armed with a pellet gun while he was seeking cover from police following a brief standoff where he used his girlfriend/ex-wife as a human shield.

The King County Investigative Response Team — a division within the sheriff’s office — was put in charge of reviewing the events that led up to the June 5 officer-involved shooting, however, it did not make a determination whether Bellevue Police Lt. Andrew Popochock was justified in firing his pistol at 27-year-old Kevin Sahagun on a residential block in the Lake Hills neighborhood.

Bellevue Deputy Police Chief Jim Jolliffe said a shooting review board found Popochock’s actions were within the law and city policy, and a use of force and firearms instructor also reviewed the incident for potential training issues.

“We felt that, based on the circumstances and information reasonably known to the officer, that his decision to shoot was within our policy and within the law,” Jolliffe said.

Popochock and Officer Brenda Johnson responded to a domestic violence complaint on the 1200 block of 151st Avenue Southeast on the night of June 5, where Sahagun allegedly pulled out a firearm — a pellet gun with the barrel drilled out to look like a deadly pistol —  and grabbed his girlfriend in the driveway of his mother’s house, using her as a shield.

Sahagun allegedly then pointed the firearm back and forth between his girlfriend and police, according to KCIRT’s report, the assault suspect later telling investigators he wanted officers to kill him. Sahagun was hospitalized twice after his arrest, first for repeatedly beating his head against the interior of a police vehicle and again when he allegedly made suicidal gestures with a string around his neck from inside his detention cell, according to the report.

Sahagun’s girlfriend — formerly his wife, with whom he shares a daughter — told police the weapon was a pellet gun, but the suspect asked officers if they were willing to take that chance, according to his own statement to investigators.

According to the report, Sahagun’s girlfriend got away, causing him to seek cover from police. Popochock fired one shot that missed Sahagun and struck a vehicle he was attempting to get inside, the report states.

Popochock, who was found justified in the 2007 shooting death of a man threatening a family member with a knife, provided KCIRT investigators with an involuntary statement 12 days after the June 5 shooting, stating he was compelled to under threat of termination.

“This is a true and involuntary statement given at the direct order of Chief (Steve) Mylett of the Bellevue Police Department given under the threat of termination,” starts Popochock’s statement, where he goes on to report he shot at Sahagun because he believed “a gunfight” was imminent.

A sheriff’s investigator’s supplemental report states “Lt. Popochock seems to indicate that he fires at the suspect just as the suspect goes behind the bush (he specifically indicated that, immediately after he shoots, the suspect in (sic) no longer visible).”

Popochock fired from behind a vehicle, where he’d taken defensive cover.  The investigator’s report states that means the lieutenant’s “description leaves only the small area between the Toyota truck parked on the road and the bush at the end of the driveway for him to have shot at the suspect while in his view.”

Sahagun told investigators he threw his gun out into the street and came out from behind the vehicle after the shot was fired, because he feared further gunfire might strike his mother’s neighbor’s house behind him, where his daughter was staying during the alleged domestic dispute.

Johnson told investigators Sahagun came out from behind the vehicle with hands in the air, but refused to comply with officers’ orders, and then ran away. He was taken into custody a short time later in the neighborhood.

A 25-year-old man in his work van on 151st Avenue Southeast told investigators he attempted to get in front of Sahagun when he saw him running down the road with police in pursuit, according to the report, which resulted in the suspect allegedly knocking him away and then punching the worker in the head.

Sahagun is charged with one count each of third-degree assault and fourth-degree assault (domestic violence) in King County District Court and was released three days after his arrest on a $150,000 surety bond.

KCIRT’s investigation report was provided to the Bellevue Reporter through a public records request.


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