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Jury: Seattle officers considered Che Taylor a threat before fatal shooting

But an attorney for Taylor's family says he believes Taylor was complying with the officer's instructions and that they reacted out of fear.
 

SEATTLE -- The majority of people serving on an inquest jury on Friday said they agreed two Seattle police officers felt their lives were in danger when they shot and killed convicted felon Che Taylor last February.

But an attorney for Taylor's family says he believes Taylor was complying with the officer's instructions and that they reacted out of fear as he followed their commands.

Key decisions:

• All eight jurors in the inquest of Officer Scott Miller and Officer Michael Spaulding agreed Taylor showed his hands after being ordered to do so. They also agreed Taylor started moving downward after being ordered to the ground.

• All eight jurors said "no" when asked if they believed Miller saw Taylor move his hand toward his right hip. Six jurors agreed that Spaulding saw Taylor move his hand toward his right hip while two answered "unknown."

• All eight jurors agreed Miller and Spaulding fired at Taylor.

• Six jurors agreed Miller thought Taylor posed a threat of death or serious bodily injury to him and others. One juror answered no and one answered "unknown." Seven jurors agreed Spaulding thought Taylor posed a threat. One juror answered "unknown."

• Six jurors agreed Miller thought Taylor was trying to pull a gun from a holster on his right hip. Two said "unknown." All eight agreed Spaulding thought Taylor was trying to pull a gun.

• All eight jurors agreed officers did not see Taylor holding a gun after the shooting happened, and agreed officers did not see a gun in a holster on Taylor's hip after the shooting.

• All eight jurors agreed a handgun was recovered from the front seat of the sedan Taylor was next to.

VIDEO: Raw dashcam of Che Taylor shooting

The confrontation happened in Seattle's Wedgwood neighborhood in February of 2016, when Miller and Spaulding were conducting surveillance on a home as part of a narcotics investigation and recognized Taylor. The officers were trying to arrest Taylor as a felon in unlawful possession of a firearm when they shot him. Miller testified that he fired his shotgun once. Spaulding fired his rifle six times.

Both Miller and Spaulding testified they saw Taylor reach for a gun before shooting him.

"One of the questions that we expected the jurors to have that no one is ever going to have an answer to is whether Mr. Taylor was drawing the weapon to actually fire on officers or was drawing it to chuck it under the car seat to avoid the penalty for felon in possession," said Ted Buck, attorney for the officers. "We will never know. What we do know is that the officers seeing that action had every reason to believe their lives were in danger."

VIDEO: Officer's attorney reacts to inquest findings

Taylor's family and supporters have condemned the shooting and disputed the police account.

Attorney James Bible, representing Taylor's family, said he believes Taylor was "killed for compliance" -- saying Taylor did as he was told by the officers. Bible said, as a result, the officers became fearful of Taylor's movements which were the result of the directions those same officers gave him in the first place.

"Based on the interrogatories that we've seen, it's apparent that when hands were told to go up, those hands went up. When a body was told to get down, a body went down -- not prior to being told to get down," said Bible. "And if Mr. Taylor and simply stood there and not moved with his hands up, he might have gotten beaten down, but they wouldn't have the opportunity to say that he was reaching for a weapon that nobody saw in his hand later. They just saw an arm or a shoulder movement, is their claim."

RAW: Family of Che Taylor and attorney react to inquest jury findings

Devitta Briscoe, Taylor's sister, said she felt optimistic after hearing some of the jury's answers.

"Even in this case, they believed that Che was complying," she said. "They believed that the officers did not identify themselves."

Taylor's brother questioned when two white officers are facing a black man, how much of the fear do they create on their own.

"They might have had this idea that this person is a person to fear, so there is no opportunity for them to go in any way but in fear," said Andre Taylor. "So we can't use it as an excuse to kill somebody."

Some of the jurors who spoke to reporters after the decisions were read said none of the jurors believed the gun was planted.

VIDEO: Jurors react after inquest

Bible said one takeaway is the important role that video plays in the investigation of a police shooting. It doesn't hold all the answers but helps shine a light on what really happened.

The Taylor family remained vague on what other legal action they might take from here. But they said they would continue to fight for a change to state law on the unlawful use of deadly force.