Body-cam footage shows chaos of SWAT arrest ending in deaths of Pierce deputy, suspect

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Body-camera footage obtained by The News Tribune shows how a Pierce County Sheriff’s Department SWAT operation last year instantly turned violent and chaotic, resulting in the deaths of a deputy and the suspect whom authorities had under surveillance.

Seconds after six SWAT team members rushed out of an unmarked white van, which had accelerated to a bumper-to-bumper stop in front of suspect Jeremy Dayton’s parked Cadillac DeVille, a barrage of gunfire rang out in an otherwise quiet trailer park in Spanaway.

Deputy Dom Calata, 35, was killed. So too was Dayton, 40, who was thought to be armed and had skipped the first day of an assault trial that could have resulted in a life sentence for him. Then-Sgt. Rich Scaniffe, the SWAT team leader, suffered a life-threatening gunshot wound to his femoral artery. He recovered after surgery and has since been promoted to lieutenant.

The often graphic footage from body-worn cameras of six deputies shows how the incident unfolded on March 15, 2022, and how the SWAT team members were caught off guard by Dayton’s immediate gunfire and hampered by poor visibility into the Cadillac’s dark-tinted windshield and windows. Investigative documents showed that the team had hoped to catch Dayton by surprise from the rear, but his car was backed up against a fence. Scaniffe decided to modify the plan to approach the car from the front. Within moments of the SWAT van hitting his bumper, Dayton began firing.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Thomas Quinlan in March ordered the city of Tacoma — which held the records as part of its independent investigation into the incident — to release the videos with some redactions in response to a public records request by The News Tribune. Calata’s wife and Scaniffe had objected in court to the disclosure of certain footage based on privacy concerns.

In his ruling, Quinlan weighed what footage constituted “legitimate and substantial public concern” related to Washington law and the state Constitution.

“It is never our intent with a public records request to cause harm or trauma to those involved, but to shed light on what exactly happened in this tragic event,” Stephanie Pedersen, President and Editor at The News Tribune, said in a statement. “The public has a right to see what happened that day.”

Members of Dayton’s family asked for the footage to be released with minimal redactions, including images of his body.

“I don’t think [deputies] did their job right,” Dayton’s brother Eric Kimbrough, who filed a records request for the video footage, told The News Tribune earlier this year. He questioned the urgency of Dayton’s medical care and whether the SWAT team could have avoided a gun battle using different tactics.

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