Motorcyclist says he will sue after King County detective gets just 5-day suspension for pulling gun on him

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SEATTLE -- The video of  King County Sheriff’s Detective Rich Rowe drawing a gun on a motorcyclist for speeding last year got the officer in trouble.

An internal investigation was launched with recommendations of punishment for Rowe.

Ultimately, King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht had the final say -- and on Monday she announced her decision.

“I acknowledge that the behavior, the swearing and yelling was excessive and inappropriate -- that won’t happen in the future,” Johanknecht said.

Investigators recommended a 10-day suspension without pay for Rowe, but Johanknecht instead imposed a five-day suspension without pay.

Johanknecht said she looked at all the evidence in a neutral way and thought a lot about the decision.

“I believe there has been some significant recognition by Detective Rowe, time to reflect on it,” Johanknecht said.

Alex Randall, the motorcyclist in the center of it all, showed up to the press conference on Monday hoping to attend. He was not allowed in but spoke with Johanknecht after the press conference.

“Five days for lying in an internal investigation -- that doesn’t line up with their own policy, as written,” Randall said.

Although Johanknecht said Rowe behaved badly, she says, he didn’t use excessive force.

“He felt that Mr. Randall was armed, I believe Detective Rowe is telling the truth,” Johanknecht said.

The sheriff says Rowe’s statements have been consistent during the entire investigation but that Randall’s story has changed.

The motorcyclist admits he was speeding, but says that doesn't excuse Rowe’s behavior.

“If I made sudden movements and he drew a gun on me, that's one thing. But if he literally got out of his car, which is what he did, and drew his gun -- that's what he knew he would do the entire time."

Rowe did not identify himself as a law enforcement officer until more than 30 seconds after the stop, but the sheriff says Rowe was wearing a badge and that siren lights on his unmarked cr were used before the stop. As for the plain clothes, the sheriff says Rowe, a 16-year deputy, was just in the process of starting as a detective.

“What we’ve learned from this is that there are steps we need to take as an organization when we have people going from all-uniform assignments to plain-clothes assignments, that they are prepared and trained and have the equipment before they go into that assignment,” Johanknecht said.

Randall says he went into a meeting with the sheriff and her staff hoping for policy changes but he came out of the meeting more angry.

“It doesn’t seem like they actually care, it doesn’t seem like they actually learned anything and they want any changes,” Randall said.

Randall says he is more upset with the systems in place than Rowe himself.

He says he has hired an attorney to file a civil lawsuit against the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff emphasized that Rowe was shocked and ashamed of his behavior after seeing himself on camera.

Q13 News has also invited the sheriff to come to the studio for a live interview. We'll let you know when we hear back from her office.

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