Kshama Sawant sued for defamation by Seattle police officers involved in shooting
Two Seattle police officers are suing City Councilmember Kshama Sawant for defamation over comments she made after they shot a criminal suspect to death.
The lawsuit says Sawant pronounced the officers "murderers," even though they were never charged with a crime for shooting Che Taylor last year.
An inquest jury concluded that officers Scott Miller and Michael Spaulding feared for their lives when they encountered Che Taylor, whom they knew as a convicted felon. And believed he was going for a gun. Download a PDF of the inquest results here.
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But like many critics, Sawant sees the case differently.
“Che Taylor was painted as a criminal, even though he was murdered by the police, even before any investigation results were released," Sawant said at a council briefing in January.
The officer's lawsuit claims Sawant also called Taylor's death a "brutal murder" and the product of "racial profiling."
That "constitutes defamation" the lawsuit says.
The officers want their good names back, according to the lawsuit, and to secure justice for what they say is a deliberate wrong.
“This may be a first, as far as I know.”
Seattle lawyer Anne Bremner has successfully defended police officers in court at least a hundred times. She says the law makes it difficult for public figures, like police officers, to win defamation cases.
“They've got the same burden of proof as if they were Taylor Swift or they were Mayor Murray or anybody else who's either a celebrity or public figure.”
And Bremner says Sawant will have a defense.
“Some people might say, well she didn't really call them murderers like we think of murderers, like criminal acts of murder,” Bremner said, describing a possible defense. “She's talking generally about a basically an act that wasn't justified or came through racial animus. And so she was talking kind of generally and so she was just giving her opinion.”
We’ve reached out to Sawant, but the council is on summer recess this week and aides say Sawant isn’t in the office. We’ll update this story as soon as she responds.
In June 2017, Sawant told KIRO 7 the impunity in which police are killing people is a nationwide phenomenon.
“What we see all the way from Che Taylor to Charleena Lyles right here in Seattle is that the police department has not been held accountable,” she said.
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