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Couple disputes incident that led to Kent Police shootout, death

Tim Blake and Nichon Greene say what they saw at a hotel parking lot prior to the July 20 shooting death of a man by five officers doesn't match up with what Kent Police reported.

The Kent Police reported that Richard Duncalf attempted to assault an officer at the Howard Johnson Inn parking lot and then fled the area holding a handgun. Police later shot and killed Duncalf, 28, after he reportedly opened fire at the officers. Duncalf was killed in the shooting after five officers returned fire behind Signature Landscaping Services, Inc., 22915 86th Ave S. A propane tank exploded during the shooting, with four officers suffering minor injuries from the explosion who were treated and released from a local hospital.

Blake and Greene, each of Beaverton, Ore., aren't disputing the shooting but rather what led up to the shootout and that possibly the exchange of gunfire might have been avoided.

"We read (what the police reported) and it was way opposite of what we saw," Blake said during a phone interview about how the incident started. "We couldn't believe it. It was not even accurate."

Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas said he could not discuss specifics of the case and the accounts by witnesses because the shooting remains under investigation by the Valley Investigations Team, headed by the Auburn Police.

"Public trust and transparency are a very high priority to me and the police department," Thomas said. "The case is still under investigation by an outside group looking into all of the circumstances. We need to let the process work its way through."

Auburn Police declined to respond to specific questions about how the incident started beyond its initial statement of "one of the suspects assaulted an officer and then fled the area holding what witnesses described as a handgun."

Blake and Greene were two of the witnesses. They packed up their vehicle that Sunday morning in the Howard Johnson Inn parking lot along Central Avenue when they saw a police officer talking to a man outside of the hotel.

Blake, who said he was interviewed by phone by a detective and told him what he saw, said he watched an officer talking to a man on the ground floor in front of a room. He saw the officer take a backpack off the man's shoulder. About 15 minutes or so later, the officer and man were still talking.

"It just looked like two people chatting," Blake said.

When Blake and Greene finished loading their car, a Kent Police sports utility vehicle pulled into the parking lot near the officer and man involved in a conversation.

"The individual took off running," Blake said. "He didn't push the officer. He just bolted and the officer took off after him."

Blake said he saw the man then run back through the parking lot holding the back of his waistband. He said he assumed the man probably had a firearm in his waistband.

"I never saw him strike an officer and I never saw a gun," Greene said. "We watched pretty much saw the whole thing."

Greene said she contacted the Kent Reporter after reading a story online because of the inconsistencies with what police said versus what she and her boyfriend observed.

"I just want to try to do what's right," she said. "I am concerned that that man did not have to die."

Auburn Police noted in a media release that a call reported three suspicious subjects at the hotel. Auburn Police declined to provide any further information about any others involved in the case besides Duncalf.

Blake said he never saw more than the one suspect. He said he didn't hear about a gun until after the man had fled and someone driving through the parking lot yelled that a man had a gun. He said he would have sped out of the lot if he had seen the man brandishing a gun as police reported.

The couple also had concerns about how police handled the case, if they knew the man had a gun.

"If they suspected he had a firearm they should've put him in handcuffs and they didn't," Blake said. "It wasn't until the other (police) SUV showed up that the dude bolted. He didn't push the officer. He just ran."

Thomas said it could take up to six months before a final report about the case is finished. Auburn Police are awaiting a toxicology report on Duncalf to see whether drugs or alcohol were in his body.

Auburn Police are investigating the shooting because Kent officers were involved. Five officers fired shots at Duncalf. Kent Police said they will not release the names of the officers involved in the shooting until the investigation is complete.

Thomas told the Kent City Council during his public safety update on Tuesday that four of the officers are back to work. He said a fifth officer had a medical setback because of burns from the explosion and has yet to receive a doctor's clearance to return to work.

Once Auburn finishes its investigation, the case will be turned over by Thomas to the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office for review and then to the King County Executive's Office for an inquest.

"The investigation is still ongoing to get specific facts," Thomas said.

Meanwhile, Blake and Greene are trying to figure out why what they saw doesn't agree with what police reported.

"I am extremely disturbed by the incident and can't get it off my mind," Greene said.

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