Executive Constantine orders an inquest to determine the cause and circumstances of any death involving a law enforcement officer.
King County Executive Dow Constantine has ordered an inquest into the death of Stephen Johnson following an exchange of gunfire with Seattle Police on Queen Anne Hill on August 30, 2014.
According to the police investigation, officers responding to a call of gunfire in the 300 block of West Prospect Street narrowed the source to a home where officers had responded the day before to a complaint of domestic violence. When the officers arrived, police say Johnson came out of his home with a rifle and fired on officers, and the officers returned fire. Hours later, Johnson’s body was found inside the home.
The King County Prosecutor’s office recommended the inquest after reviewing materials from the Seattle Police Department, which conducted the investigation.
Inquests are fact-finding hearings conducted before a six-member jury. Under a standing Executive Order, inquests are convened to determine the causes and circumstances of any death involving a member of any law enforcement agency within King County while in the performance of his or her duties.
Inquests provide transparency into law enforcement actions so the public may have all the facts established in a court of law. The ordering of an inquest should carry no other implication. Inquest jurors answer a series of interrogatories to determine the significant factual issues involved in the case, and it is not their purpose to determine whether any person or agency is civilly or criminally liable.
The order signed by the Executive requests King County District Court Presiding Judge Corinna Harn to assign a judge to set a date and conduct the inquest.
The ordering of inquests is a function vested in the county executive under the King County Code.