Video shows Seattle officers back down after bystanders step in response to ‘shots fired’ 911 calls
0:00 - 911 calls
1:05 - Cell phone video
5:12 - Body cam
Reports of gunfire and yelling in the street Wednesday night near 12th and Mercer led to a tense situation, with East Precinct officers taking aim on an unarmed person in crisis before deciding to retreat from the scene when a crowd of bystanders gathered.
The quickly formed and instantly tense standoff is an example of how fast a police response to a 911 report involving a gun can escalate, and also shows how perceptions of police in a standoff situation have shifted after repeated incidents like the killing of Tyre Nichols.
Video of Wednesday’s incident sent to CHS after it was recorded around 7 PM at 11th and Mercer shows four minutes of the short standoff as police took their position up the dark street and one officer aimed his rifle, commanding the upset subject to drop any weapon and get on the ground. The confusing scene continued, with police yelling commands as concerned bystanders told the officers to back off.
“We’re much more scared of the fucking police in this situation than this guy,” one person yells. “Can you guys fucking calm down? Calm the fuck down.”
According to East Precinct radio updates, police had been dispatched to the area after a 911 caller reported a gunshot and a second caller reported two shots along with somebody yelling, “Everybody is going to die.”
But people at the scene told police there was no shooting and no gun — only a young person in a yellow sweater upset and suffering a crisis.
“Having just had a pretty close look at him, I hadn’t seen a gun, and he and I both yelled at the police that he didn’t have any gun,” the witness who recorded the video tells CHS. “A woman across the street echoed our statement. I was scared of being caught in police gunfire and moved to the side and started filming, as did several other bystanders.”
According to radio updates, officers at the scene reported bystanders were “actively hindering” their response and asked for permission to back down.
“We’re going to go ahead and disengage,” one officer says, confirming the response found no victim and no shell casings in the area, only “20 bystanders with four surrounding the suspect.”
As the person in the yellow sweater sat down and put his hands in the air, police began to leave the scene.
“The cops eventually decided he wasn’t a threat or wasn’t worth the bad publicity and left,” the witness who contacted CHS said. “There were three police cars and at least four officers on scene. I was told by one witness afterward that the precipitating incident had been the victim slapping the stop sign on the corner, the victim told me he had gotten in an argument and went outside to cool off. He was listening to music on a Bluetooth speaker, which is what the cops perceived to be a gun. He was terrified and sobbing when it was all over.”
CHS has asked SPD for more information on the incident and their response.
Here is the report on the incident provided by SPD —
Police responded to 12th Avenue East and East Mercer Street after multiple callers reported hearing shots fired. One of the callers described a possible suspect walking away, and officers spotted him nearby. Believing him to be possibly armed, police attempted to detain the subject by giving him verbal commands at a distance. The man ignored commands. As police were giving the man commands, multiple community members encircled the subject and attempted to obstruct officers’ paths to approach the man while filming the incident. Despite police informing citizens the man may be armed, the community members continued to interfere and became increasingly hostile. Based on the number of community members becoming involved and their unwillingness to comply with officers’ commands, it became clear there was no safe means to detain the subject without unnecessarily endangering everyone that was now involved. Unable to investigate further, officers disengaged and left the area. Police found no evidence of a shooting at the original scene and no gunshot wound victims were reported.