by Kelsey Hamlin
Editorial note: due to concerns from UWPD, portions of this article originally posted on 2/1/17 have been updated. After briefly removing the article to ensure accuracy, minor corrections were made pertaining to how the RCW and WAC work in this case. In addition, the original posting quoted UWPD as saying “the Student Conduct Code office has been notified”; this statement has been removed. Some additional reporting has been added.
Though investigations are still ongoing, it has been verified that the male suspected shooter from the Jan. 20 Milo Yiannopoulos event and protests is an undergraduate senior at the University of Washington (UW), age 29. This is the same suspect who turned himself in the night of the shooting and was released within a few hours.
The suspect’s name was gathered thanks to an article by The Seattle Times, leaving an internet trail for how one could figure it out on their own. The name of the suspect — which the South Seattle Emerald is not releasing because charges have not been filed — can be found in the UW Directory.
It’s been verified by the Associate Director of Technical Services, Matt Saavedra, at the Office of the University Registrar that “the student directory reflects currently enrolled students only.”
The Emerald reached out to the suspected shooter on Feb. 1 for comment but he did not answer his phone. This piece will be updated should he return our request for a statement.
The victim, in contrast, is not a UW student, per his lawyer’s verification, and was a protestor designated as a de-escalator.
As it stands, the victim has been in and out of the Intensive Care Unit three times, undergoing multiple emergency surgeries and hasn’t been stable or clear-headed enough, due to medications, to respond to interview requests from the media or UWPD
While UWPD attributed the ultimate decision of releasing the suspects to the prosecuting attorney’s office, there seems to be a disconnect.
South Seattle Emerald emailed Dan Donohoe, the prosecuting attorney, on Jan. 24, asking why the suspects were released. Donohoe’s response was: “under state law, a person can only be held for 72 hours pending a charging decision. However, more time is needed for the ongoing investigation. Also, a case has not yet been forwarded to the prosecutor’s office. Since it’s still an active and ongoing investigation, I will need to refer you to UWPD for any questions regarding the investigation.”
Since the suspected shooter has been verified as a UW student, that means the suspect could face both criminal and administrative violations. Bringing a firearm on campus violates the Student Conduct Code (SCC).
As such, the Community Standards & Student Conduct (CSSC) office are the ones to handle administrative investigations. These occur completely separate from police inquiries, though evidence collected from a criminal incident (if it involves the same matter as what’s being investigated) can be brought in. The outcome for administrative investigations ranges from warnings and suspension to expulsion.
“We don’t know what the facts are yet,” explained Norm Arkans, UW’s Associate Vice President of Media Relations and Communications. “And until the police finish the investigation, we won’t.”
But why does the administrative process need to wait for an investigation to be done with UWPD, an otherwise completely separate entity from its own investigation? Arkans became a bit flustered at the question.
“Because there are no facts,” he quickly retorted. “When there’s no crime committed, you need facts, and certainly the people in Student Conduct are not anywhere near as skilled at investigating facts as the police are.”
But the SCC states “Disciplinary proceedings may be initiated under the conduct code regardless of whether or not the incident in question is the subject of criminal or civil proceedings.”
Meanwhile, the victim of the shooting has made it clear he doesn’t want to press charges. As stated through his attorney, Sarah Lippek, the victim wants a restorative process rather than a punitive one. Restorative justice is a theory that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behavior. In action, it often involves face-to-face meetings between the victim, the offender, and members of the community.
Rittereiser verified that bringing a firearm on campus is a violation of the SCC, which is a part of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). But bringing a firearm onto the UW campus, or any Washington public colleges and universities, doesn’t result in criminal punishment, but administrative. Only the Revised Code of Washington makes bringing a firearm onto school property a crime, for strictly K-12 schools.
That means the CSSC office has to create its own investigation. The details of this cannot be shared due to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
“If a student were found to have been in possession of a firearm on campus, and that had not been approved…I’m certain that would initiate a Student Conduct Code investigation,” Arkans speculated. “Because that would be a serious breach of a very clear rule.”
Arkans himself wasn’t quite familiar with the sanctions of bringing a firearm to campus, let alone shooting someone with a firearm.
It just so happens that all of the sanctions listed for the SCC can be imposed for any violation. In other words, there is no protocol or rule that states a specific sanction must be given for a specific violation of the SCC.
The SCC does state, however, that “In determining an appropriate sanction for a violation of this conduct code, the seriousness of the misconduct, the impact on the university community, and a respondent’s past disciplinary record will be considered. The use of alcohol or drugs by a respondent will not be considered a mitigating factor in imposing discipline.”
Sanctions include disciplinary reprimand; restitution for damage, loss of property, or injury to persons; disciplinary probation that serves as a warning, in which a second violation would result in expulsion; loss of any privileges; suspension; dismissal [expulsion]. None of the sanctions have a specified length of time or designated protocol for certain cases.
“I think student A doing harm to student B, that’s pretty much expulsion,” Arkans said. “It has nothing to with any circumstances that occurred Friday night because you and I don’t know very much about the circumstances that happened Friday night. Those are purely general answers that I was giving you, and they have no bearing on anything related to that Friday night.”
Meanwhile, Arkans isn’t sure how familiar UW students, like the suspect, are with the SCC.
“I would bet one percent would ever even consider bringing a gun to campus,” he said. “Of those, if they have a license for that weapon, you would think they’d be very aware of the laws and rules governing the carrying of that weapon.”
Lippek, the victim’s lawyer, has been doing some of her own work and relayed that she felt the police didn’t follow protocol in terms of preserving the crime scene or collecting evidence. Lippek also felt the police hadn’t followed-up with witnesses or people who sent in videos. In addition, Seattle Police Department officers on bikes were present at the protest. As it stands, the department is in the middle of rolling out body cameras.
Rittereiser said that where the scene occurred, there was no way to jump in and preserve it as there were hundreds of people.
“It was already trampled,” he said. “We did look at the scene afterward, and gather forensic evidence.”
When it comes to witnesses: UWPD has taken statements and have responded to a handful of people who sent in videos, but not all of them.
“If we haven’t, it’s because we’re prioritizing who we talk to,” Rittereiser explained. The prioritization of response is based on the quality and angle of the video in relation to the shooting incident.
The Emerald asked for the number of witnesses that have currently been gathered by UWPD and SPD for the investigation but was not given that information within the timeframe asked.
Rittereiser wasn’t aware of there being any body cameras on police at Red Square. SPD Public Informations Officer Patrick Michaud said it isn’t a requirement yet for the department’s bike police to wear body cameras, but are outfitting officers as the cameras are received.
If there were any cameras worn, however, they aren’t turned on until an officer sees a criminal act.
“Even at a protest, short of seeing somebody break a law, we aren’t turning them on because we have the requirement to not film protest,” Michaud said. “Videos don’t start until [police] witness a crime, not just a report of one.”
He also clarified that when a body camera is turned on, it runs until the end of the call.
So in the case of the UW shooting, an officer would’ve only turned on a body camera if they remembered to while they were transporting the victim from where he was shot (on Red Square) to where the medical vans were (behind Kane Hall). The policies for body cameras are tacked onto the policies for dashboard cameras, located on police cars.
In addition, UWPD announced yesterday that search warrants created for the investigation are now sealed by the court and therefore inaccessible. The blog post states the warrants identified and preserved evidence pertaining to the case.
Featured Image: Exploded paint balloons near shooting scene at UW (credit: Kelsey Hamlin)