Chief praises officers in University District shooting

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The sword-carrying man fatally shot by Seattle police Monday afternoon seemed so bent on confronting police that he tried to get up and attack officers even after he had been shot twice and zapped with a stun gun, Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said yesterday.

Despite repeated attempts to stop Shawn Jerel Maxwell, 31, — who seemed in some instances to be goading police to shoot but at other times appeared desperate to escape — officers had no choice but to jolt him again and shoot him twice more in a University District yard, the chief said.

"They showed a great deal of courage in protecting the people in that neighborhood," Kerlikowske said yesterday. "I believe the officers did everything possible to prevent (the shooting) from happening."

Maxwell came to Seattle recently from another state and had a short arrest record that police wouldn't specify. He may have been living in his Subaru. Just Sunday, police cautioned him about sleeping in his car after neighbors in the University District complained. Police say nothing about the case was routine, from the first contact Maxwell had with police to the fatal shooting.

About 2 p.m., patrol officers saw the Subaru accelerate recklessly and "power through a turn" onto 12th Avenue Northeast, "almost as if he wanted police to notice," Kerlikowske said.

The officers pulled Maxwell over in the 4700 block, but when they asked him to turn off the ignition, he sped away, police said.

The chase was brief — two turns — before the Subaru crashed into parked cars and stopped on Seventh Avenue Northeast just north of Northeast 50th Street.

Maxwell, wearing a full beard, dark Army-surplus jacket and a red knit hat, then ran through yards and over fences in a winding footrace that wrapped around the Blessed Sacrament Church on Ninth Avenue Northeast.

Early in the chase, police noticed that Maxwell had drawn a thin-bladed sword, about 2 feet long with a black hilt, police said yesterday. They later found the scabbard stashed in a barrel in a yard. At first they thought the blade was a sawed-off shotgun, and they yelled for him to drop the gun.

Instead, Maxwell yelled, "Go ahead and shoot me," as he dashed away, Kerlikowske said.

The chase ended in a side yard of a house next to Interstate 5. Police again yelled for Maxwell to stop, saying, "It isn't worth it," police said.

Maxwell replied, "Yes, it is worth it," the chief said.

An officer tried to use a Taser to stun Maxwell, but for reasons police weren't sure about yesterday, the darts didn't connect with their target.

Maxwell turned and moved into the center of a small yard, but several officers were coming the other way and confronted him, police said.

Officer Brett Rogers, 32, a six-year veteran, drew his pistol, while a second unidentified officer drew another Taser on Maxwell. "It was only after he raised his sword above his head, advanced toward the officers, leaned toward the officers ... that the officers fired," the chief said.

Two bullets hit Maxwell just as the Taser darts landed and delivered their incapacitating voltage, police said.

Maxwell fell to the ground.

But when the Taser jolt stopped after five seconds, Maxwell got up and again lunged toward the officers with his sword, police said.

In a recording of police-radio traffic released yesterday, one officer is heard breathlessly calling for an ambulance and another officer yells, "Look out!"

That's when Officer Stanley Austin Streubel, 23, with only one year on the force, fired two more bullets into Maxwell. At the same time, the officer with the Taser sent another jolt of electricity into him. He died 13 minutes after he arrived at Harborview Medical Center.

Yesterday, Kerlikowske and other police leaders commended the officers for trying to use Tasers even though Maxwell was armed and within 21 feet of them. Police consider everything inside that distance a danger zone because even a bullet won't stop a running suspect from reaching an officer.

"I applaud those officers for risking their lives by attempting to use less-than-lethal force in a clearly lethal situation," said Officer Steve Ward, who trains fellow officers on Taser use.

The Tasers used by Seattle police have a range of 21 feet.

The manufacturer is aware of the Taser's range limitation, but making an air-propelled Taser that shoots farther would require the gun to be too big and unwieldy for street-patrol officers to carry, said Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser International of Scottsdale, Ariz.

This was the second fatal shooting by Seattle police this year and the second in the University District.

Last month, an officer fatally shot Adam L. Alexander on University Way Northeast as he held a hostage with a realistic pistol that turned out to be a pellet gun.

In that shooting, Streubel, one of the officers in Monday's shooting, was training his gun on Alexander when the other officer fired.

Both Streubel and Rogers have been placed on paid leave, routine while a shooting is investigated.

This was also the second time in just months that police have shot and killed a suspect armed with a blade after a Taser failed to subdue him.

In November, an officer fatally shot Anthony Shuster, 21, in a Lake City boarding home after two officers used Tasers that didn't connect. Shuster had lunged at the officers with a kitchen knife, police said.

Several factors can cause a Taser to fail, police said — a bad connection or thick clothes, for example. Police are uncertain exactly what caused the Tasers to fail in the two shooting cases.

Still, Seattle police say the Tasers have worked more than 90 percent of the 150 times they have been used since the department issued them about two years ago.

Ian lth can be reached at 206-464-2109 or