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Melrose Ave man shot in reported ‘suicide by cop’ attempt charged with assault

Prosecutors say last Tuesday night’s Melrose Ave shooting in which a man opened fire on officers and was shot by police was a case of attempted “suicide by cop.”

Steel Maharaj, 37, has been charged with assault in the first degree after police said he fired a single shot from his 9mm Ruger semi-automatic pistol at officers responding to the report of an armed, suicidal male on Melrose in the just after 9:30 PM incident. According to prosecutors and police, Maharaj threatened to pistol whip his wife if she did hand over the gun’s ammo as he was preparing to leave their 1600-block Melrose Ave apartment. “Fearing for her safety,” police write, “she gave the defendant the ammunition.” Police say Maharaj’s wife called 911 to report her husband was depressed, suicidal, and armed.

Body camera video provided by Seattle Police showed how the shooting unfolded. “Go ahead and shoot me,” the man appears to yell at police as they confront him from behind a vehicle parked on Melrose. “Nobody wants to shoot you,” an officer yells back. “I just want to talk to you but I can’t talk to you with a gun in your hand.” As the officer trying to negotiate yells, “do not point that gun at me,” a single shot rings out followed by a barrage of bullets as officers returned fire.

Maharaj was taken to Harborview where he underwent treatment for his injuries and was in critical but stable condition. He was booked into King County Jail Monday afternoon and is being held on $2 million bail.

Prosecutors say Maharaj could face a 12 to 15-year sentence if convicted in the case.

The King County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an independent investigation under an agreement under Initiative 940 for the investigation of law enforcement use of deadly force.

The Seattle Times reports SPD has identified the identified the four officers who opened fire in the incident and their time with the department as Vaughn McKee, 5 years; Elliott Averett, 3 1/2 years; Jacob Zimmer, 1 1/2 years and Dylan Nelson, 1 year. They have been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

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4 thoughts on “Melrose Ave man shot in reported ‘suicide by cop’ attempt charged with assault

  1. Good job, Seattle cops. What a hard job. Every shift you don’t know what you’ll have to deal with. I wish some of the people who typically complain here about our police would take a moment to thank them for their often thankless job. They don’t go to work each day wanting to deal with this crap, but they do it.

    • A cop was stabbed in the face 2 nights before this shooting. People have no idea how much violence police encounter and the press doesn’t cover it much unless someone is killed.

  2. I don’t understand this “suicide by cop” method. If someone has a gun and wants to commit suicide, why don’t they just shoot themself? Do they have some underlying hatred of the police, and want to try and kill a cop before they are killed? I just don’t get it. But then, suicide by any means is not exactly a rational act.

    • Because they want to do it, but they can’t bring themselves to do it. But they can bring themselves to make someone ELSE do it–which from their mindset somehow seems easier. You’re right, it’s not a rational act, so it won’t make sense to someone not going through it.