Knife-wielding man is fatally shot

A Seattle police officer responding yesterday to an early morning report of a slaying in a Northgate apartment shot and killed a knife-wielding man who charged at him, according to police.

Investigators with the King County Medical Examiner's Office identified the dead man as Herbert L. Hightower, 25, of Seattle.

Police said a man called 911 from a pay phone outside a Northgate convenience store about 1 a.m. to report a killing at an apartment in the 11500 block of Stone Avenue North. He did not give his name but told the operator "somebody just been killed" and gave the address twice before hanging up.

Security-camera footage from the store shows a man using a pay phone at the time the 911 call was made, said Assistant Police Chief Nick Metz.

Police set up a perimeter around the apartment building. About 1:20 a.m., two North Precinct officers parked near the building noticed a man walking rapidly toward them. They attempted to talk to him but quickly realized he was carrying a knife in each hand, police said.

Seattle police spokesman Sean Whitcomb said the officers repeatedly ordered the man to stop and drop the knives, but he continued to rush toward them. When he was about 10 feet away, one officer fired a shot. The man fell to the ground.

Police gave him first aid and called for a medic, but the man died at the scene.

Meanwhile, a SWAT team responding to the original call broke into the apartment and found four people inside, all unharmed.

"At this point, there's no indication he [the man who died] had any contact with the occupants of the apartment" before the shooting, Metz said.

A woman who lived at the apartment previously had a relationship with Hightower and had a restraining order against him, police said. They were not sure whether Hightower had lived at that apartment. At least one child — the woman's 2-year-old — was in the apartment.

In one of Hightower's pockets, police found a suicide note in which he apologized to family and friends and said he had "finally lost it all."

"I have no purpose no more," it read. "I am sorry to everyone for doing this to them but it's time for me to end it."

Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer said yesterday that after a preliminary review of the circumstances, he believed the officer involved had no choice but to shoot Hightower.

"Less-lethal options were not applicable," he said. The officer didn't have alternatives such as a Taser and wouldn't have had time to use one even if he had it on hand because the man was coming toward him so quickly, Kimerer said.

"The officer responded with the right and necessary use of force. ... This was a very complicated situation that has to be reacted to in a split-second," he said.

The 35-year-old officer who fired the shot is an 11-year veteran with an exemplary record, police said.

He works nights as a field training officer in the North Precinct, Kimerer said. He was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the shooting.

"This is a tragic incident, for the subject and his family but also for the officers involved," Kimerer said.

This was the third fatal shooting involving police in Seattle this year. In May, three police officers shot and killed a man in the Chinatown International District after he pointed a handgun at them and fired at least twice.

In March, a police officer shot and killed a convicted Level 3 sex offender who had killed a woman outside a temporary Red Cross shelter on Capitol Hill.

Formal inquests into the March and May shootings are under way, and Whitcomb said there would likely be an inquest into yesterday's shooting.

Jessica Blanchard: 206-464-3896 or