SEATTLE — A King County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) detective was shot Monday morning while serving an eviction notice and is being treated at Harborview Medical Center.
Three KCSO detectives, identified Tuesday as Benjamin Wheeler, Benjamin Miller and David Easterly, were serving an eviction notice in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood at a residence just before 9:30 a.m., according to a press release from the Independent Force Investigation Team (IFIT). After contacting the 29-year-old resident, gunfire was exchanged and Easterly was shot.
The Gilman Park Apartments resident barricaded themselves inside the residence. The resident was later found dead inside.
Easterly was transported to the hospital, where Harborview Medical Center confirmed to KING 5 that the detective is in critical condition. Easterly was sent to the Intensive Care Unit.
Meeghan Black, a spokesperson for IFIT, said the deputy was in stable condition as of 2:30 p.m. and appeared to be in "good spirits" and "communicative" while being taken to the hospital.
The deputy, according to Black, was shot in the upper torso. The ballistics vest the deputy was wearing did not protect him from the bullet.
The wounded deputy has been with the sheriff's office for about 25 years.
The two other deputies have been with the sheriff's office for 24 and 26 years respectively.
Black initially said two of the three deputies fired their weapons, but IFIT later said evidence indicated all three "probably returned fire." Further ballistics testing will be done to confirm.
A large police response in the area of the shooting caused several streets in the neighborhood to be shut down for an extended period of time on Monday morning.
“Pop, pop, pop and then there was a pause and then it was another pop, pop, pop,” said Brian Smith, who is a builder working on a property down the street from the scene of the shooting.
“I thought it was from that big job site,” Smith said. “We went up on the roof and then all of a sudden cops just started showing up.”
A friend of the resident who was found dead said they "barricaded themselves in their apartment because they owed $13,000 in back rent and had exhausted all legal options." The friend didn't want to give KING 5 their name but said they came right away to help with the eviction process. “Despair. I feel a lot of guilt. I feel like I could have done more.”
Black said the eviction process had begun back in January and deputies were attempting to serve the final notification on Monday.
Whether the resident was struck by gunfire from deputies or whether the gunshot wound was self-inflicted is still unknown. At least one informational update from investigators is likely to come this week.
Once the injured deputy recovers from surgery, Black said the next steps include speaking with him to learn exactly what happened.
She said there is a standard process for the investigation.
“They lock down the scene immediately," Black said. "They take the individuals who were involved, and they separate them, and they wait until they can be interviewed separately, and so that's where we are at this point. We have to go back through and figure out how many bullets were fired, from which guns and where, and then they have to process that and figure that out, ok, ‘How did that happen?’”
As of March 7, there were 65 officers shot in the line of duty nationwide this year, which is a 33% increase over 2021, according to the national Fraternal Order of Police. Of those officers, eight were killed by gunfire.