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Jury: Deputies saw 'imminent threat' when confronting pregnant Native woman

Attorney Bree Black Horse (left) and Renee Davis' foster sister Danielle Bargala at Davis' home.
KUOW Photo/Dan DeLong
Attorney Bree Black Horse (left) and Renee Davis' foster sister Danielle Bargala at Davis' home.

Jurors in an inquestfound unanimously that two King County deputies feared for their lives when they shot Muckleshoot tribal member Renee Davis last October. Half of the jurors also found the deputies — upon entering Davis’ bedroom —  were not concerned about her welfare.  

Davis died during a suicide wellness check last October. She was five months’ pregnant.

Read: Pregnant mom killed by police. Her tribe wants answers

Jurors were told to answer 33 questions about the circumstances of Davis' death. 

Adrienne Wat with the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight attended this week’s inquest at the Regional Justice Center in Kent. She said the judge did not allow questions about deputies’ crisis intervention training and limited hypothetical questions about what the officers could have done differently that night.

Wat said Davis’ lawyers emphasized how quickly the shooting took place and how frightening the officers’ approach may have been for Davis and her two young children.

One of the attorneys, Bree Black Horse, lay down in the courtroom to illustrate Davis’ position in her bed, and asked Officer Nicholas Pritchett to reenact his entrance.

“He just shouts, ‘sheriff’s office, show me your hands,’ you know, or ‘put the gun down.’ And it was a moment where you just kind of jumped in your seat a little bit, because it was so loud,” Wat said.

She said lawyers for the deputies described the urgency the officers may have felt.  “The information that they got was that there were two children in the house,” Wat said, and “there was Ms. Davis who was potentially suicidal, she did have access to firearms.”

The deputies said Davis pointed a handgun at them and refused orders to put it down before they fired.

The inquest findings don't constitute a legal judgment. But the information generated during this inquest can be a basis for criminal charges or for civil lawsuits related to Davis’ death.

Year started with KUOW: 2005