Steve Miletich The Seattle Times
SEATTLE — Seattle police Thursday released graphic video of an officer’s fatal shooting of a 36-year-old man during a New Year’s Eve confrontation in North Seattle, including slowed-down footage showing the man grasping what police say was a stolen handgun.
The video also appears to show that when the man was shot the gun was no longer in his hand as he struggled with several officers.
Police said Iosia Faletogo, a South King County father of two, pulled the loaded gun on officers after a traffic stop. After the shooting, Faletogo was found to be carrying cash and drugs, police said.
Faletogo was identified Thursday by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, although his longtime girlfriend earlier provided his name and said they have two young sons.
Faletogo died of a gunshot wound to the head, the Medical Examiner’s Office said.
The Police Department’s Force Investigation Team is investigating the shooting, which occurred about 5 p.m. Monday near 96th Street and Aurora Avenue North.
The video, including body-camera footage from various officers and patrol-car video, was released late Thursday afternoon in what the department described as an effort to be transparent under department policy.
Warning: Graphic content
The incident began when two officers, among extra patrols out for New Year’s Eve, were driving north on Aurora Avenue.
They ran a license-plate check on the car, discovering that the registered owner had a suspended driver’s license, according to a source familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is under review. They also saw the driver make an unsafe lane change, prompting them to stop the car, the source said.
The registered owner is a woman who wasn’t driving the car and Faletogo, sitting in the driver’s seat, gave what turned out to be a false first name, the source said.
No video or audio was released of the activity before the stop.
The officers returned to their car to make further checks, and were joined by four other officers involved in holiday patrol, the source said.
Faletogo then ran from the car, going west across all lanes of Aurora with several officers chasing him, according to the source and the video.
Body-camera video and audio captured officers shouting “drop the gun,” “you’re going to get shot” and “he’s reaching” during the pursuit and ensuing struggle.
Faletogo went down on his hands and knees as the officers tried to take him into custody, the video shows.
Officers tried to take a gun from Faletogo, including by kicking at it, according to the source familiar with the investigation
Before Faletogo was shot, he can be seen on slowed-down video with a gun in his hand. He then is seen with no gun in his hands, with the gun at his side on the ground at the time the officer fired.
At one point, the video shows, an officer yelled “he’s reaching,” prompting Faletogo to look up and apparently say, “I’m not reaching,” although it is unclear.
One officer then fired at close range, striking Faletogo, the video shows.
Officers recovered the gun Faletogo had at the scene, police said. The handgun was taken during a car prowl in Renton in 2016, according to Thursday’s statement.
Photos of the gun and fully loaded magazine were released by police.
Faletogo was carrying $1,160 in cash and a vial containing 263 pills with the code for oxycodone stamped on them at the time of his death, police said in the statement. The pills tested positive for fentanyl and acetaminophen, according to the statement.
The woman who was in the car with Faletogo was released, police said.
Police identified the officer who shot Faletogo as Jared Keller, hired in September 2015, who suffered what police called a “slight” injury. He was placed on administrative leave per department policy.
Faletogo was on probation after pleading guilty in June to a federal drug conspiracy out of Juneau, Alaska, according to U.S. District Court records.
He pleaded guilty in June to importing and distributing heroin to a small community in Alaska called Petersburg, about 160 miles southwest of Juneau, the records show. A shipment seized by federal investigators in June 2014 was enough heroin to supply about half the town of 3,000 residents, the records show.
The court documents detail Faletogo’s troubled childhood outside of Seattle and show he was involved in recruiting and distribution of heroin in Alaska for at least three years before he was caught and pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge. King County court records show he was convicted of assault at age 19 and served jail time.
Upon his release, according to federal court documents filed in Juneau, he turned his life around, reuniting with his high-school sweetheart, Stacy Fernandez, and working as a lineman for Seattle City Light. They had two sons, now ages 4 and 2-and-a-half.
That changed in 2012, according to the documents, when he suffered a back injury at work. After his girlfriend lost her job, they were forced to sell their home to avoid foreclosure. Only after this, his lawyer wrote, did Faletogo turn to distributing drugs.
Though he was large in stature, Faletogo went by the nickname “Slim,” said Evon Fernandez, Stacy’s mother. “Everybody liked Slim,” she said. Stacy Fernandez, contacted by phone Tuesday, said he was close to his large family and was helpful to his younger cousins and nephews.
Although prosecutors asked that he serve five years in federal prison, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Timothy M. Burgess placed him on probation. In a June newspaper story out of Juneau, Burgess said many defendants pledge to stay out of trouble but quickly break that promise. “‘I think he’s an exception and warrants an exceptional sentence,’ ” the newspaper quoted Burgess.
But Faletogo struggled to find work after this latest case, Stacy Fernandez said. He had recently started working with a plumber, doing an apprenticeship. Fernandez hung up on a reporter when reached by phone Thursday night.
The couple had broken up about six months ago, she said, but Faletogo remained a presence in her son’s lives.
The day before the shooting, he had taken the children to the Tukwila Family Fun Center, according to Evon Fernandez, the children’s grandmother.
“It’s really horrible,” Evon Fernandez said. “The kids always want their daddy.”
Seattle police have been under a federal consent decree since 2012, when they were required to adopt reforms to address findings that officers too often used excessive force and displayed troubling evidence of biased policing.
U.S. District Judge James Robart found the department to be in full compliance with the consent decree in January, triggering a two-year review period in which the department must show that the reforms are locked in place.
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