A 29-year-old woman is dead and King County Sheriff Detective David Easterly remains hospitalized with a gunshot wound after deputies attempted to evict the woman from her apartment in Ballard Monday morning.
An ambulance took Easterly to Harborview Medical Center, where hospital spokesperson Susan Gregg said the detective was in critical but stable condition and headed into surgery. Law enforcement officers found the woman dead in her apartment about two hours after the shooting.
According to King County Superior Court filings, the woman’s eviction process began in September of 2022 over her failure to pay about $6,300 in rent.
Housing Justice Project Senior Managing Attorney Edmund Witter said his office handled her case but could not say more due to attorney-client privilege.
However, the connection between evictions and death was not new to him. A person can match the names of people who died unsheltered to the names of people booted from their homes the year before pretty faithfully, Witter said.
“An eviction can feel like a death sentence,” he added.
On Monday, three deputies went to an apartment complex on the 800 block of NW 54th Street in Ballard to evict the woman, according to Meeghan Black, a spokesperson for King County’s Independent Force Investigation Team (IFIT). At about 9:30 am, deputies called for backup after “gunfire was exchanged.” One bullet slipped beneath a deputy’s bulletproof vest and exited through his body. Black initially said the two uninjured deputies fired their guns, but an IFIT statement released Tuesday said "investigators found evidence indicating all three deputies probably returned fire."
After the exchange, the woman went back into her apartment and barricaded herself inside, Black said. About two hours later, the Seattle Police Department, who responded to the call about the injured deputy, entered the apartment and found the woman dead. Update, 3/22: According to the Medical Examiner's office, she died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Black said investigators were still looking into who shot first, whether police recovered a gun from inside the apartment, and how many shots were fired.
The Tuesday statement from IFIT named the other two detectives as Benjamin Wheeler and Benjamin Miller.
Court documents from the eviction used she/her pronouns to refer to the person living in the apartment, and a friend of the tenant said she was transgender. The Stranger is not publishing her name at this time.
A member of a mutual aid organization on scene said over the weekend he delivered groceries to her. The source said he'd been working with her and knew she was facing eviction and that she’d put up two-by-fours and metal barricades over her door to prevent anyone from forcing her out of her apartment.
Gilman Park Partners, LLC, owns the Ballard apartment complex where the woman lived. In September, the company told the woman she had 14 days to either pay the rent she owed or vacate the apartment. The woman’s lease dated back to at least 2019, though records show she may have become a tenant sometime in 2018. She paid rent on time until 2020.
Gilman Park Partners was not immediately available for comment when The Stranger reached out Tuesday morning.
In court, the Housing Justice Project lawyers cited pandemic-related financial hardship as their argument against the eviction. Gilman’s attorneys said the woman hadn’t paid during the two months after the Mayor lifted Seattle’s civil emergency. In December, the court found in favor of the landlords.
Seattle’s ban on winter evictions prevented Gilman from kicking her out until after March 1. On Monday, the King County Sheriff’s deputies followed the court order to remove her from the apartment.
“The entire situation is tragic,” Witter said. “Evictions for nonpayment of rent are preventable with more support and the right programs. Instead, a person died and another was harmed while trying to do their job.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine issued a statement about the shooting Monday night wishing the deputy a speedy recovery.
This post has been updated.