Police insisted they had seen Che Taylor wearing a handgun holster–yet the only nearby firearm was buried under a pile of trash in another man’s car.
Seattle will pay $1.5 million to the family of Che Taylor, a Black man who was killed by undercover city police searching for another suspect.
While the Seattle Police Department long insisted that Taylor was only shot because he had reached for a firearm, a federal judge ordered the case to trial two months ago. The court’s decision was prompted, in part, by evidence suggesting that Taylor may have been unarmed when he was shot and killed.
The $1.5 million award will be distributed to Taylor’s mother and further split between the deceased’s two children.
According to The Associated Press, police officials conducted an internal probe into the incident. In February 2016, the Seattle Police Department said the shooting complied with its acceptable-use-of-force policies.
Taylor, says the Seattle Times, was shot and killed by Officers Michael Spaulding and Scott Miller.
On the night of Taylor’s death, Spaulding and Miller were conducting an undercover, plainclothes operation in search of another suspect. Some time during their watch, Taylor arrived arrive outside an apartment complex in the Wedgewood neighborhood of Seattle.
Both officers claim they spotted a handgun holster on Taylor’s hip. They purportedly decided to approach him after recognizing Taylor as “a known felon and career criminal with convictions for rape and robbery.”
As a convicted felon, Taylor would have been legally permitted to purchase—let alone conceal—a handgun.
However, the officers did not act quickly. Taylor got out of his car, sat in another, and did not return to the apartment complex for at least half an hour.
This time, Spaulding and Miller confronted Taylor, guns drawn, seconds after he stepped out of the other vehicle. Within five seconds, they opened fire, fatally wounding Taylor.
In their defense, Spaulding and Miller say they had seen Taylor reaching for the same hip they thought they had spotted a holster. But a search of the area showed the only weapon nearby was in the car Taylor had just exited, buried underneath a pile of debris and trash.
An internal probe cleared Spaulding and Miller of wrongdoing, finding they had acted reasonably in assuming that Taylor’s hand movement somehow posed a threat to their lives.
But Taylor’s family publicly—and very persistently—challenged the department’s narrative. Along with filing a lawsuit, Che’s brother, Andre Taylor, founded an anti-police violence group called ‘Not This Time.’
When the case went to course, the Taylor family’s attorneys argued that Spaulding and Miller acted on “dated” information. Since Taylor had left the apartment complex—unobserved—for at least half an hour, the officers should not have presumed that he was still armed, had he ever been.
The Seattle Times notes that Che Taylor’s sister, DeVitta Briscoe—named as executor of Che’s estate—said she and the family are pleased with the settlement amount, even if the money could never be an adequate replacement for a loved one.
“No amount of money can compensate my mother for her friend,” Briscoe said in a statement. “I’m just thankful for our legal team, who took this case when a lot of others wouldn’t.”
“This is not justice for our family,” Briscoe said, “but we want to give hope to other families who are seeking accountability and liability.”
Andre Taylor told the Times he believes that his brother’s death must have had an impact on the department’s accountability. Even if the settlement stipulates that Seattle does not have to admit any wrongdoing in Che’s death, Andre Taylor said a $1.5 million award “seems like an admission of guilt to me.”