The man shot and killed by Seattle Police Friday morning was forbidden to have firearms by two court orders issued in Seattle and Everett according to Chief Jim Pugel.
“We shouldn’t demonize people with mental illness, but we have to do a better job of keeping guns out of their hands,” he said.
Seattle Police snipers killed 28-year-old Joel Reuter when he waved a gun out his apartment window and fired a shot in the direction of officers, according to a police spokesman.
The shooting ended a standoff that started around 3 a.m. on Seattle’s Capitol Hill at Bellevue Avenue E. and Denny Way.
The standoff began at around 3 a.m. when a neighbor called 911 saying they’d seen Reuter with a hand gun and then heard what sounded like five gunshots. When police knocked on his door, police say Reuter threatened them. He refused to come out, so the SWAT team moved into position and neighbors were evacuated.
“I left my shoes because they were by the window in the line of fire,” said one nearby resident. “I just ran outside.”
Police negotiators spoke with Reuter at length. After several hours, negotiations broke down and police say they heard a gunshot from inside his apartment. At one point, police say Reuter came to his apartment window ranting and waving a gun. Officer Mark Jamieson said when Reuter fired a shot in the general direction of police he was taken out.
“We were doing everything we could to convince this individual to come out peacefully,” he said. “That's how we want to resolve these situations.”
Earlier in the day, Reuter posted a YouTube video referencing riots in the streets to put down a "tyrannical U.S. government." During the stand-off, he called KING 5 News saying he had "done nothing wrong," that neighbors just “freaked out” when they saw him with his gun, and that he was afraid he'd be put in jail for simply “practicing his 2nd Amendment rights."
Seattle police say Reuter was mentally ill and that their Crisis Response Team had visited him seven times since April. Team members are specially trained to deal with people who have addiction or mental health problems. Chief Pugel said late Friday that Reuter had been civilly committed for a 72-hour mental health evaluation at Harborview Medical Center at the end of May.
There are indications Reuter may have wanted to die. A post on his Twitter account dated March 29th read, "I was just given 3 to 12 months to live by my oncologist. I welcome death."
In the hours before his fatal shooting he wrote, "My soul has departed the earth and my body is now under the influence of Jacob Yorke."
Jacob Yorke may be an alter ego. A Facebook page shows that name and Reuter’s picture. That page also contains videos that apparently show phone conversations with representatives from the Washington State Patrol and Seattle Police Department where Reuter is asking about his right to carry a gun despite his mental illness.
The gun found in Reuter’s possession is a 9 mm Glock handgun. Police traced it to a firearms wholesaler in Spokane. They are still investigating how Reuter came to possess it, given the two court orders.
“That should’ve turned up with a gun purchase,” said Pugel.
Meantime, Reuter’s neighbors are at a loss.
“It's a tragic loss of life, no matter who he was,” said Linda Ely. “He never had a chance to live a full life.”