Armed man shot to death after Capitol Hill standoff

by: Casey McNerthney Updated:


SEATTLE - An armed man was fatally shot by police late Friday morning after a Capitol Hill standoff that lasted nearly eight hours.

Shortly before 3 a.m., neighbors in the 100 block of Bellevue Avenue East near East Denny Way called 911 saying they heard five shots on the apartment building’s fifth floor. One caller also reported seeing an armed man inside the building’s elevator.

Neighbors identified the suspect as Joel Reuter. Click here to see photos of the Capitol Hill standoff.

“As the chaotic situation unfolded, officers learned the armed 28-year-old man was a resident in the building who previously had a number of contacts with officers and members of the department’s Crisis Intervention Team, which works with people suffering from mental health crises,” department spokesman Jonah Spangenthal-Lee said in a statement.

“When officers approached the man’s apartment, they could hear the man watching what appeared to be a gun maintenance training video on his television, and heard what they believed was the sound of the man racking and dry-firing a gun. When officers tried to contact the man through the door, he turned the volume on his television up, drowning out officers’ voices and making it difficult to communicate with the man.”

Police then began evacuating the building.

While a negotiator was en route, officers heard the man barricading furniture against the door, Spangenthal-Lee said.

A KIRO 7 camera later captured Reuter on his apartment balcony with a handgun. Friday morning he  also called Seattle television stations from his barricaded unit. Police asked those stations not to engage with him.

“During the incident, the man repeatedly told officers he was prepared to defend himself against ‘zombies’ and refused numerous requests by police and negotiators to surrender his gun to officers,” Spangenthal-Lee said.

Shortly before 10:30 a.m., Reuter opened fire through an apartment window onto Denny Way. Two officers returned fire, striking the man, police said.

“Because the man had barricaded his door and previously made threats to booby trap his apartment, officers carefully planned a careful tactical entry into the apartment,” Spangenthal-Lee said. “Just before 11 a.m., officers breached the door and methodically searched the apartment, where they found the suspect.”

Reuter died at the scene.

The officers who fired were put on paid administrative leave, which is standard in officer-involved shooting investigations.

This is the fourth fatal officer-involved shooting Seattle this year, and the third by Seattle police. The first was January 27 shooting of James D. Anderson in the Central District. Anderson had shot his girlfriend at the Twilight Exit car and was shot after firing at police. The second was the February 26 shooting of Jack Keewatinawin, a schizophrenic sex offender who police said held an 18-piece of rebar over a downed officer in Greenwood.

The third shooting was the March 22 shooting of Russell Lyndell Smith, a felon who was shot by Bellevue police when they were serving a search warrant at his residence. Smith was described by police as a “career criminal,” and this week the King County Executive called for an inquest into his shooting, which is standard in officer-involved cases.

Seattle Police Homicide Unit will is investigating the Friday Capitol Hill case.