Chief fires 2 Seattle Police officers who broke law during Capitol siege
SEATTLE - Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz on Friday fired two officers who were found to have broken the law and violated department policy when they entered a prohibited area outside the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.
The six-month investigation was made public in July after months of speculation over the actions of six off-duty Seattle officers who were in D.C. on the day pro-Trump rioters descended on the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Read Chief Diaz' full statement below:
"Today, I issued my final discipline in the case of two officers found to have been in Washington, D.C., on January 6th. Based on the evidence presented to me and the statement of the officers themselves, I have terminated their employment with the Seattle Police Department, effective immediately.
"In granting the police the power and responsibility to do their work, the community takes as collateral an expectation that law enforcement will at all times earn and abide by that trust.
"As Chief, I have ensured full accountability for anyone found to have lied or other behavior that violates community trust or lessens our ability to work with our community.
"This is what should be expected of policing, and it is what I demand as Chief. It is also what Seattle Police officers expect of their colleagues, since these two officers’ actions in D.C. that day were first brought to our attention by fellow officers.
"It is based on those values that I reached my decision. The two officers were found to have crossed the outdoor barriers established by the Capitol Police and were directly next to the Capitol Building. Clear evidence places them directly next to the Capitol Building. It is beyond absurd to suggest that they did not know they were in an area where they should not be, amidst what was already a violent, criminal riot.
"These two officers were present at an attack on the U.S. Capitol, which was also an attack on our profession and on every officer across the country. Make no mistake: as a result of the events on January 6th, five Capitol police officers have lost their lives. More than a hundred officers sustained serious injuries – some career-ending – through outright assault. Hundreds more, across all agencies called to respond, bear the physical and emotional scars of that day. The participation of these two officers in that crowd is a stain on our department, and on the men and women who work every day to protect our community, serve those in need, and do so with compassion and dignity.
"On behalf of the Seattle Police Department, I send my apologies to the Capitol Police, Washington DC Metro Police, Virginia State Police and all the other agencies that put themselves on the line protecting the Capitol and who continue to bear the scars of that day."
In a statement to Q13 News, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said she agreed with the chief's decision to fire the officers.
"I fully support Chief Diaz’s decision to uphold the finding and terminate these two officers. Chief Diaz and I have unequivocally stated that any officer who engaged in unlawful events at the U.S. Capitol should be terminated. Actions at the U.S. Capitol were an attack on democracy, and ultimately, led to loss of life of an officer and injuries to many others.
"Following the Office of Police Accountability’s detailed and thorough investigation, it was found that two officers were unlawfully in restricted areas on Capitol grounds during the insurrection, that they witnessed others scale scaffolding and take other illegal actions, and were not truthful in the investigation. Any police officer’s participation in the insurrection – which led to assaults and the deaths of officers -- was a betrayal of the officers who serve honorably every day across this nation to keep communities safe and protect the rule of law, often at great risk to themselves.
"This investigation shows the strength and importance of Seattle’s independent oversight – the Office of Police Accountability."
Of the six officers, OPA found that three engaged in actions consistent with First Amendment-protected activities. No discipline was recommended against those officers, who attended President Trump’s "Stop the Steal" rally earlier that day.
Investigators were unable to determine whether another officer broke any law or SPD policy, but could not exonerate the officer either. The official finding against that officer was listed as "inconclusive."
In the case of the two officers found to have been in the crowd that stormed the Capitol, OPA recommended termination. Chief Diaz pledged in a January 8 statement that he would fire any officers who were found to have taken part.
"The Department fully supports all lawful expressions of First Amendment freedom of speech, but the violent mob and events that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol were unlawful and resulted in the death of another police officer," Diaz said. "If any SPD officers were directly involved in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, I will immediately terminate them."
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While neither of the officers is accused of entering the Capitol building, a still image taken from video showed them standing in a "clearly prohibited area" next to the building, investigators claimed.
"A photo pulled from a video shows the officers smiling while in close proximity to the Capitol as rioters lined the steps and climbed the walls and scaffolding," OPA said in a statement.
OPA declined to make the image public, pending a formal resolution in the case. The image was one of three provided to OPA by the FBI, which did not give investigators the full video, citing a pending criminal case against the person who recorded it.
"Their conduct is made even more egregious by the events that were going on around them. While they smiled and looked at the Capitol Building, as captured by the video stills, rioters defiled the seat of American democracy and assaulted numerous fellow officers," said OPA Director Andrew Myerberg. "That they, as SPD officers, were direct witnesses to the acts that were going on around them, including the scaling of the Capitol Building walls, but did and said nothing, compounds this."
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The four officers not found to have committed wrongdoing were on active duty. The two employees found to have violated law and policy were placed on administrative leave, according to SPDm until their termination announced on Aug. 6.
Both officers accused of being part of the crowd that descended on the Capitol building denied willful wrongdoing. Both claimed there was no indication that the area was prohibited and no sign of criminal activity in their immediate area. OPA investigators said the claims were not consistent with photo evidence and that the area was posted with signs that read: "AREA CLOSED: By order of the United States Capitol Police Board."
"OPA has consistently found that ignorance of the law is not a defense. This is the case for community members and, even more so, for SPD employees," the OPA investigation read. "Based on the totality of the evidence, OPA finds that Named Employee #1 and Named Employee #2 were trespassing and that they knew or, at the very least, should have known that this was the case. When they did so, they violated Washington, D.C. law."
RELATED: Capitol police recount brutal attack at riot probe’s 1st hearing
One of the officers accused of wrongdoing told OPA he felt he was being discriminated against due to his political ideology and that he was in D.C. to "support a free and fair election."
As part of the probe, OPA investigators traveled to D.C. for a site visit, reviewed video, restaurant receipts, hotel key card logs, cellphone data, emails, and other documentation that could show where the officers were from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on January 6.
According to OPA, the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) asked Chief Adrian Diaz to stop investigators from having access to the officers’ personal cellphones and other data - calling it unconstitutional.
Chief Diaz refused.
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