SEATTLE — The two Seattle police officers who fired the shots that killed Che Taylor will soon take the stand to justify their use of force.
On Monday, for the first time since the February 2016 shooting, Che Taylor’s family members were in the same room as the officers involved.
Officers Scott Miller and Michael Spaulding told investigators they opened fire on Taylor fearing for their lives. The officers will tell their stories to a jury during the weeklong inquest.
“The function of an inquest is simply what happened,” Judge Janet Garrow said.
It's not a criminal or civil hearing but a jury will weigh both sides.
“Just come out and say it, I feel he was murdered,” wife Brenda Taylor said.
Taylor's wife refuses to believe the officers ever feared for their lives.
“My husband was very strong about complying with the police,” Taylor said.
But an SPD investigation found the officers reacted appropriately.
During a narcotics investigation, the officers recognized Taylor, a convicted felon, carrying a gun on a holster in the Wedgewood neighborhood. When they went to arrest Taylor for having a gun, Miller and Spaulding say Taylor did not comply with their commands. Instead, they say, Taylor appeared to be reaching for a gun.
Shortly after the incident ,some witnesses corroborated the officers' account and SPD released images of the gun and drugs Taylor allegedly had on him. But Taylor’s family says the officers still used unreasonable force.
“We are not against the police. We need police. I would hate to be in a country where we didn’t have police but we need them to be accountable,” brother Andre Taylor said.
The court spent all day Monday picking a jury; the process will continue tomorrow.
The judge asked the group of potential jurors a long list of questions hoping to pick an unbiased jury.
The questions included how they felt about police officers in general, use of force and the black lives matter movement.
The officers are expected to take the stand on Tuesday and they will face tough questions from the attorneys representing Taylor’s family.
This inquest comes just days after the Department of Justice announced an updated assessment of SPD.
DOJ says the department has made significant improvements when it comes to investigating use-of-force cases. SPD agreed to a consent decree with DOJ years back after it was determined that there was a pattern of excessive force. DOJ has been overseeing the department since and the recent assessment highlights what the DOJ says has been big progress.