NEWCASTLE — A veteran King County sheriff’s deputy was killed yesterday when a nude and highly agitated man who’d been running in traffic and pounding on cars took the officer’s gun and shot him repeatedly outside an apartment complex here.
The deputy’s name was not officially released last night because authorities were still contacting relatives. Officials said he had been with the department as long as eight years and was retired from the military. He was in his mid- to late 40s, married and had an 18-year-old daughter.
A source close to the department said the slain deputy’s last name was Herzog; King County payroll records list a Richard Herzog of Puyallup in public safety. Tony Isaacs, a neighbor of a Richard Herzog in Puyallup, confirmed that Herzog is in law enforcement and retired from the Army. Isaacs said squad cars were at Herzog’s house last night.
The deputy, wearing a bulletproof vest, had gone to the apartment building at 7311 Coal Creek Parkway S.E. in Newcastle, southeast of Bellevue, shortly after 5 p.m. in response to a report that a man was dodging cars in the street.
Witnesses and police said the deputy approached the man and sprayed him with pepper spray in an attempt to subdue him. The two scuffled and the man grabbed the officer’s gun.
The deputy quickly realized he was in danger and began retreating, moving away from bystanders as if to draw any gunfire away from the crowd, according to a witness, William Dickerson. The man then repeatedly shot the deputy, who became the first law-enforcement officer to die in the line of duty in Washington this year.
Police arrested the assailant, believed to be in his 40s, about 45 minutes later. “I am angry. I am sad. It rips your heart out,” said King County Sheriff Dave Reichert. “The message I want to deliver tonight is that all of us are grieving. This is very hard.”
At least 10 area police agencies responded to help interview witnesses and gather evidence. Police shut down parts of Coal Creek Parkway Southeast, a busy arterial through the suburban area, for the investigation last evening.
Dickerson, of Newcastle, said he was driving along Cold Creek Parkway Southeast with his wife when he saw a naked man and a police officer standing in front of a bus. He pulled over and could hear the officer trying to calm the man. He said a woman, “obviously distraught,” was standing nearby, also trying to calm the man.
The officer and suspect started to fight. As the officer started to retreat away from the crowd, the man jumped him. Dickerson said he saw the officer’s gun fall from his holster, the magazine clip falling from the gun when it hit the pavement.
The suspect “grabbed the firearm and magazine, put them together, turned around and immediately started firing,” Dickerson said. The man kept firing as the officer ran and, when the deputy fell, stood over him and emptied the clip.
Raminder Singh, who works at an AM/PM minimart and gas station kitty-corner from the apartment complex, was behind the counter when he looked out onto Coal Creek Parkway Southeast and saw a muscular man running around in traffic, stopping cars and pounding them with his fist.
“He was completely naked. No shoes, no nothing,” Singh said.
At one point, Singh said, the man was struck by a car and fell to the street, only to get back up again and run after the car. Singh called police.
According to Singh’s account:
After running after the car that struck him, the man stood in front of a bus trying to block its passage. Singh said that when the bus stopped, the man ran to the door and shouted to be let in.
That’s when the deputy arrived, the two scuffled, and gunshots were fired as the man stood over the deputy, who fell to the street.
The man ran back toward the apartment, firing random shots before he went inside. Minutes later, he appeared — now clothed in jeans, a T-shirt and cap — on a balcony overlooking a nearby McDonald’s. He raised his arms in the air in what looked like a gesture of surrender, then went back inside the apartment.
Singh said that about half an hour to 45 minutes later, he heard more gunshots and saw police removing the man from the apartment building.
Synthia Sandhal had stopped at the minimart to buy cold drinks for the children in her car. She was standing in line when she heard Singh declare: “See that man. He’s running around naked over there.”
“I was freaked out. I was terrified,” she said. That’s when the shots rang out. “I ran out of the store and said, ‘I don’t need a receipt!’ We just heard the gunshots and everybody started running like it was Godzilla over there.”
That the deputy had tried to stop the man with pepper spray likely will revive a long-standing debate over the merits of nonlethal force, which many police officers say is ineffective against determined individuals — especially ones as agitated as the suspect appeared to be.
Last year, police shot a sword-wielding man after two shots from M26 Taser guns failed to stop him.
Prompted by the controversy surrounding the April 2000 fatal police shooting of David John Walker, a mentally ill man who was skipping down a Lower Queen Anne street and waving a knife, the Seattle Police Department purchased 194 Taser guns over the last year and has been gradually introducing them in the field as part of a special program to use more nonlethal weapons.
Even then, police warned the public that Taser guns, Mace, rubber bullets and other nonlethal means would not end the necessity of police shootings.
Still, numerous community leaders and activists have said that the police are too quick to use lethal force, most recently after Robert Lee Thomas, a 59-year-old truck driver from Seattle, was shot by off-duty King County sheriff’s Deputy Melvin Miller after Thomas parked his pickup in Miller’s east Renton neighborhood April 7.
Those same arguments were heard after the May 2001 shooting of motorist Aaron Roberts.
Two other police officers have lost their lives since 2000.
On March 7, 2001, Des Moines police officer Steven J. Underwood, 33, was shot and killed while questioning four juvenile suspects he had stopped while they were walking along Pacific Highway. All four suspects were eventually apprehended and the shooter was charged with aggravated murder and could face the death penalty.
In August of 2000, Deputy Sheriff Wallace Edward Davis, 48, of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Department was shot and killed after responding to a domestic-disturbance call.