A Seattle Police officer will face a disciplinary hearing Friday for not properly de-escalating a situation where he disarmed and arrested a robbery suspect who was carrying an ice ax.
However, the police union and members of the community are commending the officer for resolving the incident peacefully.
Seattle Police body-worn camera video shows officers in a foot pursuit last August with the suspect, James Ray Smith, a man in crisis who had just stolen an ice ax from REI.
"Man it's OK. Just drop the ice ax," one officer said in the video.
Smith ignored them, occasionally waving the ax around, and the officers' concern for the safety of people nearby started to grow.
"Folks step away. Please step away," they said to the people nearby.
Others joined in on the pursuit, including Officer Nick Guzley. The situation escalated after Smith, once again, swung the ax over his head.
Guzley decided to move in to take the suspect by surprise. The officer ran up, wrapped his arms around the suspect in a bear hug, restricting his arm movement. That's when Smith was disarmed, taken to the ground and arrested.
According to SPD, Smith was not injured during the arrest. He is currently serving time in prison for robbery.
"Grab him around the shoulders, take him to the ground, put handcuffs on him. That's perfect," said Kevin Stuckey, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG).
Stuckey believes the officer did what he's supposed to do, finding a peaceful resolution. This Friday, the union will represent Guzley at a hearing where he faces discipline for not de-escalating the incident.
Guzley can be heard on the body-worn video describing what happened.
"I was concerned about a construction worker coming up when he had the weapon and drew it down I reached up and grabbed him," Guzley said. "All we did was have him up against the wall, officers brought him down to the ground."
Stuckey has received letters from members of the community applauding the officer's actions. SPOG even awarded Guzley as August Officer of the Month after he was nominated by his peers.
Stuckey also pointed to a strikingly similar incident 18 years ago. KING 5 cameras were rolling when Seattle police chased a mentally ill man, David Walker, who was wielding a knife.
In that case, officers fired a fatal shot.
"It was an uproar over why we couldn't have done something different," said Stuckey. "Flash forward 18 years. Not to say that was on these officers' minds, I'm just talking about the change in our profession. We put ourselves in a situation where we can get him into custody without bringing harm to himself or to others. And that's exactly what happened. Isn't that what we want our officers to do?"
That is what the police chief will have to decide this Friday at Guzley's Loudermill hearing when the veteran officer gets a chance to make his case.