Families of Black males killed by police want sheriff out

National

SEATTLE (AP) — Relatives of Black males who have been shot and killed by law enforcment officers called Friday for the resignation of King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht for what they say is “her failure to treat racism with the seriousness it requires in her position.”

The group, which asked King County Executive Dow Constantine and the Metropolitan King County Council to support its demand, also called for the firing of sheriff’s Capt. Todd Miller, who was leading a sting in which a fatal shooting occurred.

Miller was separately found to have engaged in “conduct unbecoming” by the Sheriff’s Office when he reposted what appeared to be a news article and photo of Black teens beating and stealing the sneakers of another teen on his Facebook page last year, with the comment: “Animals. This is what the inner city gives us these days.” The source of the post is unknown.

Miller insisted that his comment wasn’t racist and was about the “socio-economic issues existing in American inner cities” that drive crime, according to internal investigation documents.

Alexis Dunlap Francois said at a news conference Friday outside the King County Administration Building that she wants Johanknecht and Miller to resign, The Seattle Times reported.

Dunlap Francois’ 17-year-old son, MiChance Dunlap Gittins, was fatally shot in 2017 during a botched sting operation meant to arrest another youth for a homicide. It was later determined that neither teen had anything to do with the killing. The sting was led by then-sergeant Miller, who is white and has since been promoted to captain.

Johanknecht wasn’t sheriff at the time but she recently suspended Miller for a day without pay after a colleague complained about his Facebook post. Another deputy, Mike Brown, was recently fired for inappropriate social media posts.

In a statement issued by her office Friday, Johanknecht, said discipline is a “complicated matter,” adding there were “distinct differences in the pattern of social media behavior” displayed by the series of posts Brown made and Miller’s lone post.

“To be clear, I do not condone the behavior of either of these members,” Johanknecht’s statement said. She also said she will not resign.

A Sheriff’s Office spokesman told The Associated Press that Miller would not be commenting Friday.

Constantine’s office, in its own statement, noted the executive “was not involved in the investigation of Capt. Miller and has asked the Sheriff’s Office to share its reasoning for the level of discipline against him.”

County Council members did not respond to messages from the newspaper seeking comment Friday. Councilmember Dave Upthegrove wrote in a Facebook post he was proud of the “moms for speaking up. I stand with them and support their demands.”

Joining Dunlap Francois was Sonia Joseph, the mother of Giovonn Joseph-McDade, who was killed by a Kent police officer in 2017; Fred Thomas, whose son, Leonard Thomas, was killed by a Lakewood police officer in 2013; and Devitta Briscoe, the sister of Che Taylor, who was killed by two Seattle officers in 2016.

Friday’s event was organized by Not this Time — an anti-police violence community group headed by Briscoe and co-founded by Taylor’s brother, Andre Taylor.

Johanknecht was elected in 2017 and has less than nine months remaining in her term. She will be replaced by an appointed sheriff in January after voters passed a measure in November to eliminate the elected sheriff’s position in favor of one chosen by the county executive.

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