A King County, Washington Sheriff's detective is now on paid administrative leave after a video showed him pulling a gun on a motorcyclist during a recent traffic stop in Shoreline. The video has led to an apology from Sheriff John Urquhart about how the situation was handled.
The incident happened just before 12 p.m. on Aug. 16, near Fifth Avenue Northeast and Northeast 145th Street. Motorcyclist Alex Randall says the video clip he captured on his helmet camera started the moment he turned it on during a trip to work.
"I see the flashing in the back of the car in front of me and the weird coloration. It’s not immediately apparent to me that I’m going to get pulled over for any specific reason," Randall said. "I lean in. I squint. 'Oh, yup, that’s a car behind me.' And I turn."
Seconds after he stopped at a red light along 145th, he turned and saw the detective approach him with his gun drawn, Randall said. The detective was on duty at the time, a sheriff's office spokeswoman told KOMO News on Tuesday.
"How you doing?" the man is heard asking in the video.
"Oh (expletive)," Randall responds. "What are you doing?"
"What do you mean, ‘What am I doing?’" the man then said in the video. "You (expletive) drive reckless. Give me your driver’s license or I’ll knock you off this bike."
"I turn and I am completely unprepared for what I see, which is a man with a gun in my face. And my first reaction is to simply put my hands up. I’m not really able to hear because I’ve got my bike going, I’ve got my helmet on, I’m surprised at what’s happening."
The detective didn't show a badge when he first approached Randall, Randall said. But Sheriff Urquhart confirmed it was one of his detectives.
In the video, the detective demands to see Randall's license several more times. At one point, you see him reach into Randall’s pocket and pull out his wallet. We blurred the detective's face because the sheriff did not know his side of the story and we weren't able to track the detective down.
"That’s my wallet," Randall states in the video.
"Yup," the detective responds.
"I'm not armed," Randall tells the detective.
"I’ve never had an officer do that ever," Randall told KOMO News on Monday night.
Randall admits he was likely going 10-15 miles per hour over the posted speed limit before the encounter, but he claims he wasn’t driving recklessly. He believes the detective went too far in how the situation was handled.
Sheriff Urquhart hasn't yet heard the detective's account of what happened, but what he saw in the motorcyclist's video troubled him, he said. "I’ve only seen, heard one half the story. So, I’m going to caveat my statement with that," Urquhart said Monday. "However, I’m not happy with what I saw. It’s very, very troubling. I can’t think of an excuse for it. But again, I haven’t talked to the deputy yet."
"The fact that he had his gun out on a traffic stop, for allegedly reckless driving - which is a misdemeanor. You don’t pull your gun out on somebody for something like that. We just don’t do that."
Urquhart has since called Randall to apologize for how the situation was handled. "I apologized for what happened. I told him that I’d get to the bottom of it, and we’ll take it from there," Urquhart said.
"I told him that I would believe him until evidence showed otherwise that that was not the case," Randall said.
In the video, you can hear the detective tell Randall that he was with the Sheriff’s Office. After the detective took a look at Randall's driver's license, he is seen putting away his gun. Randall said the situation then became much more calm. A use-of-force investigation is now underway, Urquhart said. The Office of Law Enforcement Oversight is monitoring the investigation and will review it once it's complete, a spokeswoman said.
The detective has been with the King County Sheriff's Office for about 19 years, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. He will likely be interviewed next week about what happened. The King County Sheriff's Office does not yet have body cameras, a spokeswoman said.
Randall plans to file a formal complaint, he said.
Our affiliate KOMO News in Washington contributed to this story.