He had fled the scene and was responsible for a hit-and-run but the incident itself had not caused any major loss of property nor had it injured the woman in the car behind him.
Guilt is an extremely heavy burden to bear and for an innocent person, guilt could be the difference between life and death. A Seattle man (identity protected) faced such a situation where despite being innocent, he was driven by guilt, falsely planted by the police officers, that led to his suicide. As reported by NBCNews, he took his own life believing that he had hurt a woman in an accident and that woman was now fighting for her life.
The incident occurred in May 2018, where this man was involved in a minor fender-bender, where, according to his friends, his car had rolled back a little and hit the car behind him. He had fled the scene and was responsible for a hit-and-run but the incident itself had not caused any major loss of property nor had it injured the woman in the car behind him.
A Seattle officer was suspended after an investigation found that a lie the officer told a hit-and-run suspect contributed to the man's suicide. https://t.co/cAjWPHEz4y— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 12, 2020
In a report from the Office Of Police Accountability, the police watchdog says that two police officers from the Seattle Police Department had visited the address associated with the car in order to get a statement and had lied. According to the report, both the police officers knew that the accident was a minor one but they told a completely different story to the woman who opened the door.
They told her that this man was involved in a hit-and-run and the woman whose car he had hit was in critical condition. They even said that this woman was so critical that she may not survive. The bodycam footage clearly showed, in the investigation, that the woman at the door got visibly upset at the news that the cops had deceitfully presented to her.
Speaking with the police watchdog, his friends told the authorities that the news had hit him hard and he was growing increasingly upset every day. They even told the authorities that the man had told them that he was involved in the hit-and-run but he had not seen anyone getting injured. He had indeed fled the scene but he knew that no one was in real physical danger.
Less than a week after the crash, in June 2018, the man killed himself and his roommate told the authorities that the day before he took his life he "became increasingly worried" and talked about suicide. It was also revealed in the report that he had prior legal troubles and had also been a drug addict for almost 20 years but that in no way justified the ruse created by the police officers that induced this guilt in him.
He should be made to pay restitution to the man's family. Yeah, I know that won't happen.— Susan Michele Hutchinson (@SusanMicheleHu1) January 12, 2020
As the police watchdog completed its investigation, they found that one of the officers said that the ruse was necessary to get the required information and at the same time, he did not believe he was responsible for this person's suicide. The second officer even told the investigators that he, too, knew that they lied "but it’s fun," he said.
The police watchdog admitted that officers were allowed to use ruse at times to gather information but the extent to which these officers went "shocked the conscience." They stated that what the officers did was inconsistent with the policies of the Seattle Police Department.
Seattle Officer's Ruse Causes Man's Suicide https://t.co/6tipW49aFz— John Wallach (@calidreamer47) January 12, 2020
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best has suspended the officers for 6 days without pay and said that she agreed with the watchdog's findings. In a statement, she said: "The officer’s actions did not meet SPD’s standards of acceptable use of discretion and were not consistent with the standards of professionalism or training. In 2019, the Seattle Police Department provided in-service training to all sergeants, officers, and detectives on the appropriate use of ruses during criminal investigations."
The identities of both the man and the two police officers have not been revealed.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.