by Carolyn Bick
This is the second in a series of articles examining the pushback and internal pressure former Office of Law Enforcement (OLEO) director Deborah Jacobs appears to have faced during her tenure at OLEO. This pushback appears to have mainly stemmed from within the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), the very law enforcement entity OLEO is tasked with overseeing, as well as the King County Police Officer’s Guild (KCPOG), some of whose members belong to the KCSO. Multiple sources have alleged that certain members of the KCSO and the KCPOG mounted an internal campaign against Jacobs and said that the main goal of the campaign was Jacobs’ ouster. The King County Council decided not to renew Jacobs’ contract, after an independent investigation found that Jacobs had violated King County discrimination codes. Jacobs has since filed a tort claim against King County. You can read part one of this series here.
Author’s Note: Several sources requested anonymity over concerns of retaliation or professional repercussions. These sources are noted as such throughout the piece. Their real names have not been used.
The Night Tommy Died
Still blurry with sleep, Jacobs walked up to a crime scene cordoned off with shiny yellow police tape. It was June 14, 2017, and then-KCSO Deputy Cesar Molina had just shot 20-year-old Vietnamese American student Tommy Le twice in the back and once in the back of the hand. Le died of the wounds to his back shortly after. When Jacobs arrived on the scene, it was after midnight. By that time, Le was already dead.
Before Jacobs had even been notified of the shooting, KCSO had already set up the scene’s temporary command center. Among those present at the command center were then-Major Mitzi Johanknecht — she was the Precinct 4 commander in Burien at the time — and then-Captain Scott Somers. Former Sheriff John Urquhart arrived later at the scene but told the Emerald in a May 10, 2021, interview that he did not stay long.
Somers would later instruct the scene’s responding sergeant, then-Sgt. Ryan Abbott, to treat one of the witness deputies as an involved deputy. This meant that the witness deputy would not be compelled to give a statement the night of the shooting. The Emerald wrote about this decision and the red flags it raised in a later investigation into the events that night and into the way the KCSO handled its own internal investigation of the shooting.
“This was just a complete PR bungle,” Dan, one of the sources who spoke with the Emerald on condition of anonymity, said in an April 2, 2021, interview. “They knew that Tommy Le had a pen within seconds. And yet they withheld that information. … They did that on purpose. And away we go. [The KCSO] are running downhill with one mistake on top of another, and it just doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Continue reading ‘The Beginning of The End’: The Uphill Battle for Oversight in King County