Three Kent Police officers feared for their lives when they fatally shot Patrick Reddeck last year in his home, a King County inquest jury concluded.
Each of the six-member jury answered yes to questions about whether officers Tim Lontz, Tom Riener and Travis Wilson fired their weapons because they believed Reddeck presented a threat of death or serious bodily injury to them. The jury deliberated less than 30 minutes Thursday in King County District Court at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent before issuing its yes, no or unknown answers to 42 questions about the case.
“I am not surprised at the outcome of the inquest jury,” said Police Chief Ken Thomas, who attended most of the four-day hearing that began on Monday. “It’s a tragedy whenever anybody is shot. However, the evidence showed in this case the officers acted very professionally and did the job we ask them to do. It was positive that the facts and circumstances could be aired for the public. I’m just happy that our police officers are OK and no innocent people were injured.”
An inquest requires jurors to determine facts in a case involving a police shooting. Jurors do not determine fault, money damages or policy reviews. Inquests are to provide transparency into law enforcement actions so the public may have all the facts established in a court of law.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will review the information from the investigation, led by Auburn Police, and the findings of the inquest to make an independent determination regarding whether or not criminal charges are warranted, said Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the office, in an email. He said it usually takes about a week or two for a decision.
The officers fatally shot Reddeck, 38, on the afternoon of Oct. 12, 2016, in his home at 437 Jason Ave. N., after officers said they saw him display a gun as they entered the home to execute a search warrant. Officers were at the home related to a suspicious death in August 2016 at the residence of Amy Derheim, 41, the girlfriend of Reddeck, who lived with her.
Derheim died from acute ketamine intoxication and asphyxia due to drowning, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. Her cause of death is undetermined The Derheim case remains an open police investigation, Thomas said.
Police fire 13 shots
Reddeck was shot 13 times, testified Dr. Timothy Williams, a King County medical examiner. Two shots hit Reddeck in the chest, two in the stomach, two in the right arm, one in the right leg, one in the left hip, three in the right knee and two grazed the body near the stomach and leg.
The officers testified that they initially shot Reddeck because they saw him holding a gun as they came into the home. They shot again after Reddeck fell to the floor because he still had two hands on the gun.
“The first round of shots he was standing holding a gun,” Wilson said during his hour of testimony. “I stopped shooting because he fell. I could see Patrick, after he fell, laying with his head toward the kitchen and feet toward me, but I could see him still holding the gun in both hands and he was moving around and it looked like he was trying to get a better grip on it. I yelled out to the other officers, ‘He still has the gun.’”
Wilson, in his 13th year as a Kent officer, explained why he fired his first shot after officers entered the home and saw Reddeck holding a gun.
“I was scared, I thought he was going to shoot us – he’s going to kill us,” said Wilson, who was about 20 feet from Reddeck.
King County deputy prosecuting attorney Maggi Qerimi then asked Wilson if he was in fear for his life.
“I was,” he said.
After Reddeck stopped moving, Riener kicked Reddeck’s gun away, and the officers handcuffed him.
“He was still alive, still breathing,” Wilson said after asked about putting handcuffs on someone who had been shot. “He could have gotten up for all we knew and started to fight with us or had another gun or weapon. It’s mostly to get everything as safe as possible in that moment. Once we determined he was no longer a threat, then you can take him out of handcuffs.”
Paramedics transported Reddeck to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he died in the emergency room about two hours after the shooting.
“The cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds,” said Williams, the medical examiner, who added it was unknown which wounds caused the death. “We don’t narrow it down to one specific gunshot wound, especially when there’s quite a number, so the gunshot wounds are considered a combination together for the cause of death.”
Impact of bullets
Attorney Andrew Cooley, who represented the officers and the city of Kent at the inquest, asked Williams about the bullets from the 9 mm pistols used by the officers and the impact of such bullets, even 13 shots.
“Those are considered pretty small and pretty low velocity compared to say rifle rounds,” Cooley said. “And sometimes on TV when the police shoot somebody the bullets hit the person and the body is flown backwards in the air. Did the type of bullets you see in this kind of work produce that kind of event?”
“No,” Williams said. “That’s done for theatrical effect.”
Cooley then asked the medical examiner about the type of shots that immediately cause a person to be incapacitated.
“If somebody was shot in the head that’s probably the best example,” he said. “Or if shot through the heart.”
Cooley asked Williams if Reddeck had any wounds like that, and Williams said no. The attorney then asked Williams to tell the jury what impact all of the wounds would have on Reddeck and how quickly he would become incapacitated.
“It would have taken a little while, it would not have been instantaneous,” Williams said. “Given the fact he was transported to the hospital and taken into surgery. …the paramedics obviously felt it was something he might be able to survive and the surgeons at the hospital felt the same. …that reflects that none of the wounds were immediately incapacitating and allowed him to survive some period of time.”
Williams also testified that the toxicology report about Reddeck done by the State Patrol Crime Lab showed that Reddeck had no drugs or medications in his blood at the time of the shooting.
Reddeck’s family could have had an attorney to ask questions at the inquest but chose not to.
‘Just kill me’
Officer Wilson testified after police entered the home that Reddeck started to raise a gun from his hip and said, “Just kill me.” Officer Riener told Reddeck to sit down when they entered the home and Reddeck backed up and said something similar to “You’re not going to take me.”
Wilson had interviewed Reddeck for about two hours the prior day about his possible connection to the death of Derheim. Police returned the next day to seize his computers after relatives of Derheim accused Reddeck of stealing money from Derheim’s bank accounts.
That investigation is the reason officers began to kick open the front door of the home after Reddeck initially didn’t answer their knocks or phone calls. Wilson testified they didn’t consider going away and coming back later.
“The thing I was worried about is we were there to get evidence of a crime,” he said. “We were there to take his computers, something that could be easily destroyed or wiped clean, all of the memory on it erased and that may have ruined my investigation. …If he found out we were there, I wouldn’t want him to destroy the evidence.”