‘That erodes trust’: SPD bodycam video exposes mock tombstone of teen officers shot and killed

SEATTLE — A new scandal rocked the Seattle Police Department because of what a 2021 body cam video exposed inside a police precinct.

It shows a mock tombstone for the teenager who was shot and killed by SPD officers six years ago

The video was obtained as part of a lawsuit challenging the city’s graffiti laws.

In fact, it was the lawyer handling that case who released the video calling it “disgusting!”

For the family of the teenager police shot and killed what appears to have happened routinely at the East Precinct is adding another layer of pain.

It is a stunning sight. Seattle police officers, in a bicycle repair room at the East Precinct, casually walking by a mock tombstone of Damarius Butts, a 19-year-old burglary suspect who officers shot and killed in 2017.

We watched as his mother, grandmother, and uncle viewed the entire video for the first time.

“No, I’ve never seen that video,” Stephanie Butts said, with pain in her voice. “Like, you still gotta have a heart. You do. You gotta have a heart regardless. (I) just don’t know what to say about that.”

The video also shows a Donald Trump 2020 poster and a Black Lives Matter sign with what appears to be a red hat hanging from it.

Just last March, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell asked a federal court judge to lift the 2012 SPD consent decree based on a pattern of biased policing and use of excessive force.

“That erodes trust,” said Harrell. “When we’re trying to build trust with our Police Department and the community.”

A clearly chastened Mayor Harrell said the video demands action.

“I will support an investigation to understand what happened, who knew about it, who should have known about it?” he said.

That likely won’t diminish the renewed pain the video has caused Stephanie Butts.

“I didn’t think officers would do something like this, the Seattle Police would do something like this,” she said. “It’s really shocking to me actually. It is.”

She’s not alone.

The Seattle Community Police Commission is calling on Police Chief Adrian Diaz to explain in public how this could have happened. The commission announced Diaz will be at its next meeting a week from today to answer questions.