by Carolyn Bick
King County Undersheriff Patti Cole-Tindall will be recommending to Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht that King County Sheriff’s Office Detective Mike Brown be fired, according to an internal email shared with the Emerald.
Brown was under investigation, after reports of him appearing to make light of a driver who, by driving into a group of protestors on Interstate 5 in early July, killed 24-year-old Summer Taylor and seriously injured another protestor, Diaz Love. In the hours following, Brown posted several Facebook posts that included memes of people getting hit by cars with the phrase, “All lives splatter.” According to King5, Brown had been with the sheriff’s office for more than 40 years, and was part of King County Executive Dow Constantine’s protection team.
Cole-Tindall’s email, sent to KCSO employees on the afternoon of Oct. 13, said that the undersheriff arrived at this decision “[a]fter carefully considering the findings and the impact of the unprecedented number of complaints received not only by [the King County Sheriff’s Office] KCSO, but other county departments and agencies.”
The email said that Brown has been notified, and that he will “be afforded the opportunity for a Loudermill hearing, before the Sheriff makes a final disciplinary decision.” A Loudermill hearing is part of the “due process” requirement that must be provided to a public employee prior to removal or potential disciplinary action.
The KCSO forwarded the Emerald a press release shared shortly after the internal email was sent. The press release iterates that Brown will have the chance for a Loudermill hearing, and says that the “Sheriff’s Office is currently working with Detective Brown’s union representatives to schedule that meeting.” It also says that the office is continuing to investigate other KCSO employees who “may have provided some response to Brown’s postings.”
The KCSO also provided the Emerald with Cole-Tindall’s findings memo into the allegations leveled against Brown, which include serious misconduct — “discrimination, harassment, incivility, and bigotry” — serious misconduct — “conduct unbecoming” an officer — and violating the KCSO’s policy on using social media. Cole-Tindall ultimately did not recommend sustaining the serious misconduct, but did recommend sustaining the serious misconduct and the allegation of “Acts in violation of Sheriff’s Office directives, rules, policies or procedures: Use of Social Media.”
In the findings memo, dated Oct. 5, Cole-Tindall included descriptions of the posts in question, as well as screenshots of them. She said that “significant community outrage was obvious in the numbers and content of the complaints,” and that the complaints were “so numerous,
it took a substantial amount of time in this investigation to document them for the file.”
“The investigator summarized common words and phrases that arose in the complaints as follows: heinous, inflammatory, taunting, hateful, disgusting, tasteless, inappropriate, grossly insensitive, callous, lack of compassion, mocking death of a citizen, celebrating a death, supporting violence, advocating murder and the killing of innocents, inciting hate, encouraging violence, a danger to people of color, callous disregard for human life, eroding public trust and confidence, hate speech, breach of trust, lack of good judgement, bigoted, racist, white supremacist, racial prejudice, mocking death of protester, and mocking the BLM movement,” Cole-Tindall wrote in the findings memo. “An additional theme was lack of faith in Detective Brown’s ability to protect and serve the life/safety of the citizens of King County.”
The memo also included a transcript of the investigator’s interview with Brown, who claimed that “he did not associate the “All Lives Splatter” reference to “Black Lives Matter” mantra at the time he posted or reposted,” Cole-Tindall wrote in the summary of the transcript.
In the transcript, Brown says of making those posts that his “perception of it at the time, was that, you go on the freeway at 1:30 in the morning, bad things are going to happen and that’s what I was looking at. Like, ‘Well, if you hadn’t been on the freeway, you would have been okay.'”
Though Brown acknowledges in the transcript that the posts may reflect badly on him, “people all perceive things differently. The perception to one person is a different perception to another. But yeah, I can see where people, they look and see what you have on your social media, where they can lump you in with a particular group, a particular movement.”
He also said of a post that read, “I see a couple of people got infected from the COVID-19 from the hood of a car on I-5 last night,” that this particular post went into the “numbers now with COVID-19. And how they’re classifying some deaths as COVID-19, when actually they are not.” He still admitted that the post was in reference to Taylor and Love and called the post “a poor attempt at humor.”
Brown also addressed a number of other posts, including posts referencing police knocking out the teeth of anti-war protestors from the 1960s and 1970s.
Featured image from the Emerald archives.
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