Analysis

Elderly 110 lb. woman shot and killed by jail guard in Spokane, Wash.

Questions remain for community members about the Dec. 4 killing of 70-year old Nancy King in the lobby of the Spokane County Jail.  

A timeline of events has been provided by law enforcement and repeated by the local and national press. Nonetheless, the incident has not yet been investigated by an independent agency as required by state law.

On this cold winter night, King began pressing the buzzer next to the front door of the jail’s lobby. The receptionist asked through a speaker what King needed, but did not receive a reply. King, who weighed 110 pounds, is said to have begun pounding on the door. 

She was admitted to the lobby, where she was confronted by corrections officer Sergeant Justin White, who had served as a Firearms/Use of Deadly Force Instructor as well as the sergeant overseeing the Field Training Officer Program. (KHQ)

The authorities claim King was brandishing an “edged weapon,” assumed to be a knife. Other outlets, including KHQ, KXLY and KREM 2, went a step further than the cops stating outright that she was carrying a knife, a claim for which there has so far been no evidence. (The Spokesman-Review)

It is alleged that White issued repeated warnings, demanding that King drop her weapon. It is reported she failed to comply and was then shot and killed. 

Before King was identified, local activists signed a statement issued by the Spokane NAACP, which pointed out that, “Spokane County officers are equipped with stun guns and should be well-trained in de-escalation techniques and prepared to use them before firing shots.”

The Spokane Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America also issued a statement pointing to the many systemic issues surrounding King’s death: “According to Nancy King’s nephew, she may have been homeless and in need of mental health treatment. Nearly everyone that police kill are poor and working class.” 

Indeed, as has been reported, King’s family had “lost touch with [her] completely and thought she may have died or become homeless.” When asked about the official account of his aunt’s death, her nephew Jack King replied: “It’s really hard to picture that, but it was a cold night. I don’t know if she was having a mental breakdown or if she was just freezing to death and looking for someplace warm to go.” (Spokesman-Review)

There remain several important questions which were not asked by the corporate press surrounding this case, the most obvious of which is why no video or photographic evidence has been released to substantiate law enforcement’s fantastical claims. Jordan McGee, a local activist said, “The Spokane County Jail is likely one of the most surveilled places in the city, and anytime there is a bank robbery, for example, the public is treated to a stream of photographic evidence. If law enforcement has nothing to hide, why are they afraid?  

“Had another civilian killed King instead, it is unimaginable that they would have been merely placed on administrative leave and given such favorable treatment in the corporate-owned press. We demand justice for Nancy King, which begins with a thorough and independent investigation and by jailing killer cops.” 

Feature photo: Spokane County Jail. Liberation photo by Tiago Correia.

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