Cops investigate rifle left on back of squad car, other officers flagged down to stop patrol car.
|Photo credit – SLOG|
Seattle police are investigating an assault rifle that was left on the trunk of a patrol car – found only after two people flagged down separate officers to alert them.
The incident happened Monday night, and the patrol car with the gun on the back was photographed in the 1500 block of Seventh Avenue, near The Cheesecake Factory and The Roosevelt hotel.
Police started the investigation after the person who took the photo sent the image to The Stranger. It was posted on Slog, the alternative newspaper’s blog, at 5:21 a.m. Monday with a short description of the incident.
It was reposted on Slog at 9:51 a.m. with police spokesman Sean Whitcomb saying the department is “very embarrassed that this happened.”
“There is a chain of command investigation that will look into the circumstances that contributed to this incident,” Whitcomb told seattlepi.com. “Just the fact that the rifle was left on a patrol car unattended is embarrassing, and people should expect more from the Police Department.”
Seattle police have three classifications for how they keep rifles: unloaded in storage mode, patrol-car ready and tactical ready. The rifles are loaded in the latter two.
Whitcomb said the gun was not in tactical ready mode, but he is not certain whether it was loaded. That will be part of the investigation, he said.
“We’d really like to express our gratitude to Nick the Slog tipper who flagged down the bike officers and also a separate woman who alerted the driver of the patrol car that there was an unattended rifle on the car.”
Police officials did not name the officers.
Kathryn Olson, civilian director of the Office of Professional Accountability that investigates police complaints, received e-mails Tuesday morning from people wondering why how the rifle was left unattended.
“The incident was brought to my attention earlier this morning, and I immediately contacted SPD Command Staff,” she wrote in one response. “I learned that Captain (Joe) Kessler, the commander of the West Precinct, had already begun an investigation into the circumstances involved.
Olson wrote that she “will monitor the investigation to ensure that all relevant facts are uncovered and that any lapse in procedure is appropriately addressed.”
“It is unacceptable that a rifle was left unattended on a patrol car, and people should expect more from their police department,” Olson wrote. “We are very grateful to the two good Samaritans who alerted police to the unattended rife: Nick, the SLOG tipster who flagged down near-by SPD bicycle officers who were separately responding, and a woman who followed the patrol car and alerted the driver about the rifle.”
The rifle mishap isn’t the first for Seattle police. In Dec. 2004, then-Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske has his gun stolen from his unmarked car parked in downtown Seattle.
Kerlikowske, now President Obama’s drug czar, said the weapon was not in plain view and nothing else was taken.
The gun has never been found.
In September 2010, a handcuffed suspect left unattended in a Seattle patrol car worked his way into the front seat and sped away with the lights flashing. The patrol vehicle had an officer’s shotgun inside.
The suspect, Jay D. Marbut III, was convicted of second-degree burglary and motor vehicle theft, but the attempting to elude charge was dismissed. He was sentenced in December to 68 months with credit for time served in King County Jail and is now incarcerated in Airway Heights Corrections Center.
The rifle incident comes at a time of increasing scrutiny for the Police Department.
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Seattle police after the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups called for an investigation into a possible pattern or practice of unnecessary use of force, especially against minorities.