Four months ago, we reported that a Harbor Avenue man was in the hospital after his third encounter with police in 24 hours – who were reported to have used a Taser on him after behavior that was described as a vandalism rampage in his own apartment building with a sword. Days later, two WSB commenters reported that the man had died; we were never able to get official information on that – but now, we’ve learned it’s true, via the county’s announcement that an inquest has been ordered:
King County Executive Dow Constantine today ordered an inquest into the death of Mike Chen, who died on or about September 10, 2012 following a confrontation with police outside his West Seattle apartment four days earlier.
According to a letter from the King County Prosecutor, Seattle Police responded to numerous call-outs involving Mr. Chen at a convenience store and at his apartment complex, both on Harbor Ave. SW. On Sept. 6, police responding to a call from Chen found him slumped on the ground with a sword in front of an apartment door at 3213 Harbor Avenue SW. Police say when Chen grabbed the sword and started to sit up, they tased him several times during a struggle, then administered CPR when Chen showed no pulse after being handcuffed and restrained. He was rushed to Harborview, where he died on or about Sept. 10.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office has indicated the cause of death was associated with excited delirium and following physical restraint, along with acute methamphetamine intoxication. The manner of death is listed as undetermined.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg recommended the inquest after his office reviewed materials from the Seattle Police Department, which conducted the investigation.
Inquests are fact-finding hearings conducted before a six-member jury. Under a standing Executive Order they are routinely called to determine the causes and circumstances of any death involving a member of any law enforcement agency within King County while in the performance of his or her duties.
Inquests provide transparency into law enforcement actions so the public may have all the facts established in a court of law. The ordering of an inquest should carry no other implication. Inquest jurors answer a series of interrogatories to determine the significant factual issues involved in the case, and it is not their purpose to determine whether any person or agency is civilly or criminally liable.
The order signed by the Executive requests King County District Court Presiding Judge Corinna Harn to assign a judge to set a date and conduct the inquest.
The ordering of inquests is a function vested in the county executive under the King County Code.