Undercover detectives who were present when King County Sheriff’s deputies shot and killed a Des Moines teen earlier this year described in court Tuesday an operation that quickly became a “worst case scenario.”
Chance Gittens, 17, died after deputies opened fire in January while they were trying to make contact with a different man they considered a person of interest in a Sammamish homicide.
The undercover detectives were among several witnesses answering questions from attorneys during a King County inquest this week. It is not a trial, but rather an effort by the county coroner to learn more about the circumstances of Gittens’s death.
One of the detectives recalled feeling uneasy as her undercover van approached a Des Moines apartment complex in a “high crime, gang-infested” neighborhood where they believed they would meet their person of interest, Gittens’s friend. Using Facebook, the detectives set up a ruse to lure the man out of a home by pretending to be a minor who wanted to buy alcohol.
“I immediately became very nervous,” the detective said in court Tuesday. She was expecting one person to approach the van, but instead spotted two males. She worried the transaction would quickly turn into a robbery.
She recalled hearing a loud voice command coming from assisting deputies: “Sheriff’s office, drop the gun.”
Her partner, who was in the same van, told the court that he heard no mention of a gun, just the words “sheriff’s office.” He added that he could not see the males’ hands or whether they were holding anything.
The detectives both described hearing gunshots right after the voice command.