SEATTLE - The mother of the 33-year-old shot and killed by state troopers on the Ship Canal Bridge Monday said her son Jonathan Whitehead was hooked on prescription methadone.
Donna Buchenau lives in Kansas and believes her son was going through drug withdrawal when he used his truck to block I-5, set the vehicle on fire, then began spray painting a circle in the middle of the road before charging officers.
“That was his circle of truth,” said Buchenau, explaining the circle based on things Whitehead had said in the past. “It wasn't so much that he was coming after the officers-- as protecting himself to stay in the circle of truth.”
Buchenau said her son had been struggling with drug use to combat pain since he beat leukemia at a very young age.
New 911 audio released Thursday backs up the account given by state troopers who confronted Whitehead.
“I was right next to the guy who shot him,” said one caller to a 911 operator. “I saw him charge the cop, and I’m happy to report as a witness if they need it. I saw him run at one of the officers.”
Other callers reported very erratic behavior by Whitehead.
“The fire was in his truck,” said another 911 caller. “He set a fire in his truck.”
The Seattle Police are investigating the case, because two Washington State Troopers fired their weapons. However, family and neighbors said Whitehead’s brother is an SPD officer.
A police spokesman would not confirm the relationship, but when asked about possible conflict of interest said, “It would not change how we investigate it. It just would not matter.”