The Seattle Police Department says it is investigating how a mentally ill man gunned down by police Friday morning acquired the Glock handgun they say he eventually fired at them during an eight-hour standoff at a Capitol Hill condo building.
Joel Reuter was shot by officers returning fire after the 28-year-old fired a single shot at police on the street on Denny Way below from his 5th floor residence, a SPD spokesperson said during a briefing following the 10:30 AM shooting.
The violent end to the standoff came following a night of tension after a resident called 911 around 3 AM on Friday, July 5th to report seeing Reuter carrying his pistol and then possibly hearing gunshots mixed in with the waning sounds of the night’s 4th of July festivities. According to a preliminary SPD report on the incident, officers could hear “a gun maintenance training video on his television, and heard what they believed was the sound of the man racking and dry-firing a gun” through the door and walls of the building. Outside, pedestrians in the busy corridor and residents of nearby buildings were repeatedly rushed from the intersection to avoid the line of fire.
According to the SPD report, the tension built even after Reuter had been shot after officers lost site of the wounded suspect inside his condominium. Police say Reuter had threatened to booby trap his apartment — entry wasn’t made for another half hour as Reuter lay dying inside.
In a media conference Friday afternoon, interim chief Jim Pugel said it was not yet known how Reuter was able to acquire the pistol despite recent court orders that barred him from possessing firearms. The day before on the 4th of July, Reuter posted a video online documenting his call to the Washington State Patrol “Checking with WA State Patrol about my Second Amendment rights — HAPPY 4TH!.” “I think that if one of my fundamental rights as an American citizen had been revoked at all, I would definitely clearly remember it, or would have been sent home with an important document or something,” Reuter wrote. “Or at least someone would be jumping on the chance to remind me that I can’t own a gun… So I am going to go forward assuming I’m not breaking the law if I have a gun on me.”
Friends of the Bellevue/Denny resident say the video was part of Reuter’s accelerating mental illness exacerbated by a cancer diagnosis and a violent car crash earlier this year.
“We’re shocked and in pain,” a friend told CHS. “He was gentle, very loving, very docile. He was a big teddy bear.”