Seattle judge sets unbelievably low bail after drive-by shooting where officer was ambushed

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RENTON, WA – A King County District Judge is under fire for setting shockingly low bail for two men arrested for ambushing a Renton officer during a drive-by shooting.

According to police documents, Frankie Taijon Robertson,24, is accused of firing 15 rounds at a Renton police officer as she waited at a stop light after pulling out of a car wash.

Lamonta Joseph Steward, 23, was allegedly driving the vehicle Robertson fired from in what police call a targeted shooting.

The veteran officer, whose name has not been released, had just driven out of the car wash and was waiting to turn left from Talbot Road South onto South Grady Way at about 4:50 p.m. Tuesday when shots were fired from a nearby gas station.

Detective Robert Onishi told the media that the officer ducked down in the patrol car and radioed for backup. A witness pointed out the suspects’ red Kia fleeing from a Chevron gas station to responding officers.

Multiple officers arrived quickly to the scene because of an unrelated incident at City Hall and were able to stop the Kia after a brief pursuit.

The ambush was caught on surveillance video. Detectives said the video clearly shows the shooter firing at the officer.

No one was injured in the shooting, though one vehicle parked at the gas station was struck by gunfire and one witness was treated for a panic attack, Onishi said.

Prosecutors asked the judge for $1 million bail for Robertson and $250,000 for Steward. Despite finding probable cause for the arrests, King County District Judge pro tem David O set the bail at only $50,000 each.

King County Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson Casey McNerthney called the low bail “inappropriate”:

“At Mr. Robertson’s first appearance, we asked the first appearance judge to set bail at $1 million.

“We believe that the bail set Thursday afternoon by a District Court judge ($50,000) was not appropriate given Mr. Robertson’s dangerous actions posed to multiple people.”

At a charging hearing in front of a separate judge, Robertson’s bail was increased to $500,000, but Steward’s bail remained the same.

The Washington Fraternal Order of Police, which represents over 2,500 law enforcement officers in the state, condemned the shooting and was upset by Judge O’s for setting such low bail for an unprovoked and violent attack on a police officer.

WAFOP President Marco Monteblanco said:

“This is a vicious, unprovoked attack on a police officer by suspects who have a history of violence against law enforcement. Low bail for such an egregious act sends the wrong message and undermines the safety and good work of peace officers in the community.

“We are seeing more and more of these ambush-style attacks on peace officers and a low bail would have suggested there are minimal consequences for these actions. We cannot let these actions go unchecked.”

Monteblanco said that attacks on police officers like this one are clearly intended to kill, and the justice system should respond appropriately:

“Frankly, we’d still like to see higher bail for both suspects given the circumstances of this act.”

Several King County judges who tend to offer lighter sentences once worked as defense attorneys, however, they are supposed to leave biases outside the courtroom. Judge O, who is a Judge pro tem meaning he only serves on the bench part time, currently works as a defense attorney.

Contacted by local media seeking comment on this bail, Judge O failed to return a call.

Renton Police Chief Jon Schuldt released a statement saying the defendants should be treated fairly, but should have been given appropriate bail:

“They do deserve their due justice afforded them by our just system, but a high bail ensures that they would stay incarcerated pending that process. Both, through their actions, have clearly demonstrated a disregard or concern for the rights and safety of others.”

Both suspects are still in custody as of this writing.

King County prosecutors charged Robinson Friday with felony charges of drive-by shooting, assault with a firearm and unlawful gun possession.

Steward was charged with rendering criminal assistance in the second degree and attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle.

Making the low bail even more shocking is that Robertson is also a suspect in the shooting of another police officer in  March.

According to a probable cause statement filed by Renton police, Robertson is suspected of shooting at a Washington State Patrol trooper in March.

Trooper Rick Johnson, a patrol spokesman, said Friday that the shooting occurred on the northbound Interstate 5 ramp onto Interstate 405; the trooper’s vehicle was not hit.

The shooter’s hat fell out of the vehicle during the incident, and police said Robertson’s DNA was found on it.

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Police ‘reform’ law in Washington state already causing huge crime problems, tying the hands of police

Augugst 2, 2021

 

The following contains editorial content which is the opinion of the author.

OLYMPIA, WA- As usually happens, a knee-jerk response to the George Floyd death last May has turned into a cluster you-know-what for police in Washington State. Just a week after the new “police reform” bill went into effect, police in the state are already dealing with the unintended (or perhaps they were intended) consequences of the Democrat-led bill.

The move to “reimagine” policing in Washington was led by activists who clearly are anti-law enforcement, and complicit left-wing Democrats in the state legislature. What exactly did the Washington Democrats do?

As Jason Rantz said in an opinion piece in The Federalist,  the changes are numerous.

“Police use of force is now strictly limited. Car chases and tear gas are almost entirely banned. Chokeholds are now forbidden, requiring officers to use more lethal tools at their disposal. Some bills even conflict with others.”

Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla didn’t pull any punches in addressing the new bill.

“The challenge is—I’m going to be very frank—the laws were written very poorly, and the combination of them all at the same time has led to there being conflicts in clarity and in what was intended versus what was written,” he told ABC News.

Under the bill, HB 1310, there are only three situations under which police officers are permitted to use force. Perhaps the most ludicrous of the requirements is that force may only be used when probable cause exists to make an arrest.

 Prior to the enactment of this bill, the standard was reasonable suspicion. For those who do not understand the difference, reasonable suspicion is a standard where there may not be sufficient evidence or facts and circumstances to make an arrest, but the officer has a reasonable belief that a crime may have been committed.  

Probable cause requires a higher bar to be reached. The typical standard is, “Facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable and prudent person to believe that a crime has occurred or is about to occur and that the person in question committed or was about to commit a crime.”

It requires more than mere suspicion; it must be backed up by some type of evidence.

In the case of HB 1310, the only time police can now use force to make an arrest is:

“Make an arrest, prevent an escape, or protect against imminent threat to bodily injury to the peace officer, another person, another person, or the person against whom force is being used.”

Another act passed which significantly restricts officers is HB 1054, which addresses police pursuits. Under this measure, police are not allowed to pursue a vehicle unless there’s probable cause to believe that the suspect “committed or is committing a violent offense or sex offense.” [emphasis added]

In other words, if police see a car with a driver matching the description of a bank robbery suspect, they would be prohibited from pursuing or making an arrest because probably cause didn’t yet exist.

There’s more—the suspect has to pose an imminent threat at the time, the pursuit must be necessary to apprehend the suspect, and the officer has to have a supervisor’s approval. [emphasis added] An officer must check off all three boxes before the suspect can take off not to be seen again anytime soon.

In a state such as Washington, some smaller departments may not have a supervisor directly and immediately available to clear a pursuit. So basically that takes those departments automatically out of the equation.

This law has already had a negative impact on police and public safety in the state, as Law Enforcement Today reported last month. This involves the case of a man who was discharged from a hospital for the mentally disabled, while wearing a yellow dress, who stole a school bus. He was contacted by sheriff’s deputies; however they couldn’t pursue him due to the new law.

Why not? Because they only had at that time reasonable suspicion that he stole the bus, not probable cause. So in this case, deputies broke off the pursuit. An hour or two later, the same suspect stole a front loader and smashed it into the home of his estranged wife, flipping a car onto the structure.

The new law also will have a significant impact on how police interact with mental health or drug crisis situations. In some cases, officers have been put in the position of having to use force in order to take people into custody for involuntary commitments in order to remove people from the streets before they hurt themselves or others.

Under the new law, this is no longer the case. Since officers do not have probable cause to make an arrest, they no longer can use force. Rantz cites an example of someone “running around partially naked and causing a scene.” Since that is not a crime, and if the person wasn’t armed with a weapon, there isn’t imminent harm to anyone. Officers have their hands tied.

Think that couldn’t happen? Think again. Exactly such an incident occurred in the city of Sedro-Wooley. Two incidents involving the same suspect occurred within hours of each other, however officers couldn’t do anything because the man had not committed a crime. They would only be able to intercede after he committed such a crime or got his hands on a weapon.

Rantz noted that police chiefs and sheriffs throughout the state have been raising the alarm about such incidents and have indicated they will no longer have officers respond to certain calls.

Washington State lawmakers may pat themselves on the back for “doing something” to rein in those “nasty” cops, however what they have done is make the job of police extremely complicated, making communities less safe, and putting residents in the position of not having their safety taken care of.

These two laws are not the only ones tying the hands of cops, and may increase, not decrease injuries to suspects.

For example, HB 1054 restricts police use of certain weapons, with Democrats using caliber size as their criteria for deployment of certain weapons. Their intent was to prohibit police from using so-called “military equipment” weapons that were already not being used by police. 

 

 

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