Published March 28 2013
Bellevue Police Chief Linda Pillo issued the following statement regarding inquires the Seattle Police Department received from Seattle community members and Seattle government officials:
"There have been some questions from concerned Seattle community members regarding Bellevue Police serving search and arrest warrants in a south Seattle neighborhood on Friday, March 22, 2013, which ended in the use of lethal force on Russell Lydell Smith.
The City of Bellevue experienced three robberies since November 2012 which Smith is a suspect. There have been at least two similar robberies in Seattle with Smith as the suspect*. The Bellevue investigators developed probable cause1 that Smith committed these robberies.
Smith's criminal history includes felony and misdemeanor convictions for burglary, assault of a child, felony theft, felony assault, criminal trespass, obstructing a public servant, bank robbery, and parole violations. He was classified as a potential armed career criminal by the Federal Government. He was under the Department of Corrections supervision as a violent offender. Within the last two decades he had been confined to both federal and state prisons.
A Bellevue Police Detective submitted evidence for the warrant request to King County Prosecutors for review and then it was submitted to a King County Superior Court Judge who reviewed and signed the warrant for Smith. The search warrant was for the residence where Smith was staying and the vehicle he allegedly drove during the robberies.
On every search warrant, our department uses a Threat Matrix to determine whether the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) is necessary to assist with the warrant service. If a person has a history of violent crimes or is known to be armed, SWAT will serve the warrant. Mr. Smith had a history of violent crimes and was a suspect in three robberies in Bellevue. The service of a warrant is commonly done by the agency developing the probable cause. Police agencies routinely go outside their city to make arrests and serve warrants. The Police Department where the warrants are served is notified regarding the operation. In this case, the Bellevue Police Department notified the Seattle Police Department. Both Bellevue Police and Seattle Police investigators were on scene during the warrant service.
Bellevue SWAT often serves warrants in the early hours of the day. This is the time of day that there is the least amount of impact on the neighborhoods or complexes and generally catches the suspect unaware of the contact. In this case, SWAT arrived to serve the warrant during the early morning hours and encountered the suspect in the vehicle identified in the search warrant. As Bellevue SWAT approached, clearly marked as Police, they identified themselves and made commands to the suspect to surrender. The suspect put the car in reverse and slammed into a parked Ford F-250 truck with such force that it pushed the truck several yards. The Bellevue SWAT officers continued to order the suspect to stop. Instead he drove directly at the officers. Believing the suspect would run over them rather than surrender, three Bellevue SWAT officers opened fire on the suspect, fatally wounding him.
For this operation Seattle Fire Medic Unit was parked nearby in case anyone was injured during the warrant service. This is a Bellevue Police standard practice to request medics to be within a few blocks of any high risk operation. In this case, Seattle Medics attempted life savings measures at the scene and then transported Smith to Harborview Medical Center.
Bellevue SWAT is comprised of highly trained police professionals who provide the department with special operations tactics capable of responding to critical incidents and resolving them with a minimum risk to the officers, suspects and the community. They use a variety of specialized tools that are not available to other officers or investigations. Bellevue SWAT has been deployed many times since its inception in 1976. This is the first Bellevue SWAT involved shooting death.
Once Seattle Police completes the death investigation, the case will be forwarded to the King County Prosecutor's Office. The King County Executive authorizes an inquest to investigate the causes and circumstances of a death involving a member of a law enforcement agency in King County. Inquests determine whether the use of force is justified.
Law enforcement officers are the front line in the fight to protect citizens from harm, and to preserve public order. Police are charged with investigating, deterring and preventing criminal activity. Bellevue Police were serving an arrest and search warrant that morning to apprehend a serious and violent offender suspected of at least three Bellevue robberies and to recover evidence of the crimes of robbery. No law enforcement officer ever wants to be involved in a lethal use of force. Unfortunately, at times it cannot be avoided."
* The facts and circumstances within the arresting officer's knowledge are sufficient to warrant a prudent person to believe that a suspect has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime