Seattle Police May Have Prevented Me From Saving My Son Jan's Life

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


On the night of my son Jan's suicide, the Seattle Police lured me from my house and prevented me from re-entering, possibly preventing me from saving my son Jan's life.

Submitted: March 03, 2018

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Submitted: March 03, 2018

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On August 25th, 2014, I had gone to Ikea to buy a small three-drawer chest of drawers for the bathroom.  I got home at 1:30 p.m., just as my eighteen-year-old son Jan seemed to be getting up.  I made breakfast for him, aware that he planned to leave to visit his girlfriend in Redmond at 2:00.  At about a quarter to, he asked for the socket wrench so he could change the wheels on his skateboard.  I told him that I wasn’t sure it had the right socket on it and he said he thought it probably did.  I was surprised by his assumption, and I unintentionally raised my voice a little when I responded by asking why he would assume that.  In retrospect, and even a little at the time, he seemed a bit dreamy; some kind of off balance which I attributed to my raised voice, which he hated.


While he changed his skateboard wheels on the enclosed front porch, I said good bye and got busy assembling the chest of drawers on the floor at the top of the stairs.  I had a hard time assembling it and had to go back to Ikea to get some parts that were missing.  It was a frustrating day and I looked forward to complaining about it later.


At 11:30 p.m. I was reading in bed and I heard Jan close the gate, which had camel bells on it.  I had made dinner for him and left it at his place at the table, thinking he would eat after coming home late as he often did.  I heard him come upstairs and through my bedroom door I said, “wash your hands.”  I heard water run briefly in the bathroom.  Then I put earplugs in my ears and went to sleep.


Just the week before, I had replaced the doorknobs on the three bedroom and one bathroom doors upstairs in our house.  The old ones were very cheep and squeaky and didn’t even have privacy locks, except for the bathroom set.  We had been disturbing each other at night with the squeaky ones.  The new ones were solid brass and turned quietly.  I had been trying to find out how to unlock them from the outside in case we were  ever accidentally locked out of a room, but hadn’t been able to get that information yet.  It was not obvious, although there is a hole on each outside knob.  


At about 1:15 a.m. on August 26, 2014, I was awakened by a phone call from a police dispatcher. She told me that a friend of Jan’s had called the police because they were concerned about something Jan had posted on Facebook.  She instructed me to get Jan and go outside with him with nothing in our hands.  I went to his bedroom door, and banged and banged and banged on it, getting no response.  His door was locked.  I was half asleep.  I told the dispatcher the situation and she said for me to come outside with nothing in my hands and that the police had tools for opening the lock and would help me do that.  


I went right out in my sweat pants, t-shirt, and bare feet.  Instead of coming in to help me, the police immediately whisked me away, past a female officer holding a shotgun, to the corner of the block where there were several police cars and police milling about.  They allowed me to point out Jan’s bedroom windows in the front of the house and talked about ways to try to communicate with him through the windows, including shooting an electronic device through one of the windows.  Also at the corner of the block was a car belonging to one of Jan’s friends, with two of his friends and his girlfriend in it.  The police showed me a smart phone belonging to one of the girls, with a picture from Facebook of Jan holding a gun to his head.  They asked me if I recognized the gun, and I did, as mine.  I became alarmed at the sight, but cognitive dissonance made the situation unreal and confusing.  For the next several hours the police tried to contact Jan using megaphones in front of the house.  They asked the girls if I could sit in their car with them, as I was cold standing around in my bare feet and t-shirt.  


I kept asking to be allowed to go back to the house.  I was not afraid of Jan shooting me; there had never been any sort of violence between us.  But the police would not let me.  Eventually they decided to send their people in.  They asked me to sign a form giving them permission to enter my house and take whatever they wanted to.  Strange that they felt they needed my signed permission when at the same time they would not allow me into my house, or even near it.  I wonder if that was legal.  I told them I would cross out the part giving them permission to take whatever they wanted and then sign, since I didn’t see any options at that time.

 
A twelve-man SWAT team arrived in an armored vehicle.  Each of them was armed with an “assault rifle” hanging from a lanyard around his neck.  I was alarmed at the sight of them.  I told the police that I didn’t want them to shoot my son and again asked to be allowed to go into my house, and again my request was denied.  They said that the SWAT team had tools to open the bedroom door.  It turned out that after searching the whole house and trashing it slightly, they broke down Jan’s bedroom door (smashing the new knob set).  My neighbor across the street later told me that one of the SWAT team members had lain in his front yard with his rifle aimed at Jan’s window.  


The ranking police officer came to the window of the car and said he was sorry to inform me that my son was deceased.  How? I asked.  He looked away and his voice became weak as he clearly lied that he didn’t know.  How do you know he’s dead?! I asked the officer, who was not to my knowledge a physician, and got no response.  I said that maybe Jan was still alive and needed our help.  I desperately wanted to go to him.  This was my son’s life we were talking about!  They still would not let me go near my house.  I started to walk in that direction and was bodily blocked by a burly police officer.


I can understand that if my son was dead they needed to make sure he wasn’t murdered, so they needed to preserve the scene.  But they could have accompanied me to allow me to see for myself.
They told me that I couldn’t go back to my house until the medical examiner came and did his thing.  One of the police officers volunteered to me the erroneous information that the ME could not do an autopsy without my permission.  That same officer harassed me for my middle name, which he said he needed for his report.  As if there were more than one Ethan Deutsch living at my address in Seattle.  He also asked why I didn’t break down Jan’s bedroom door—in the house that they wouldn’t let me go back to.  Because I was just awakened and was following the orders of the dispatcher, I told him.


The ME wouldn’t be able to come until after 9:00, and it was around 6:00 a.m.  One of the police officers got me a pair of my shoes and one of my jackets and my keys from my house.  Jan’s friends and I needed to use a restroom so one of the officers escorted us to the park a block away.  After remaining still throughout the night I felt like running a little and when we reached the park I told the officer I was going to run to the bathroom.  He said, “Please walk, for me.”  I said, “No.  I’m going to run.  For me.”  They seemed to believe that they had to be in control of absolutely everything.


Since it would be hours before the ME would arrive, they had their Mobile Crisis Unit come and take me to a friend’s apartment.  They assured me that they would lock up the house when they and the ME were finished.  They didn’t.  The Mobile Crisis guy told me that all kinds of support were available, including help paying rent.  But he didn’t give me any contact information.  He got my friend’s telephone number and called her when the ME was finished, but I never heard from them again.


I went to my house after we got the call.  My friend’s two sisters—Vietnamese women, who had seen a lot—who were also my friends, accompanied me and we entered Jan’s room.  The ME had taken my towels out of the hall closet and placed them over the largest patches of blood.  We collected the bloody sheets and pillow and mattress pad and webcam and fan and put them in a garbage bag.  It was evident that Jan had shot himself in the head through his pillow in order to make the shot silent.  There was a bullet hole in the wall.  More blood than you could imagine.  I futilely tried to clean up the blood-soaked carpet with a carpet cleaner, which got clogged with pieces of skull….


The ME had left a brochure with a case number written on it and a phone number to call for more information.  I discovered that they would do an autopsy regardless of my wishes and that it was not possible for me to see Jan’s body until after his body was released to a funeral home.  


The first person I spoke with at the ME’s office told me that the autopsy was compatible with all religions.  I did not feel that it was compatible with mine; I felt it was sacrilegious; they literally butchered the most sacred thing in the World to me.  The next time I called, to arrange for transfer to a funeral home, the person I spoke with told me that because Jan shot himself through the head, they had to cut the top of his head off and remove his brain to examine it.  This was disturbing to me on two levels.  One, because they were mutilating his body before I could even see…it…him.  And two, because it made no sense:  How much clearer could it be that he died by a gunshot would through his head?  What were they looking for inside?


It was so disturbing to me that I wrote a letter to the ME, which went unanswered.  So I wrote to the King County Executive, whom I presumed to be the ME’s boss, and eventually had a lengthy correspondence with the ME.  It turns out that removing the brain is a routine part of autopsy.  The person I had spoken with (probably the ME) had apparently given me that strange excuse for doing it figuring that I would simply accept whatever they said.


The funeral director told me that the ME had just “tacked him back together,” that he was “oozing,” and that it was inadvisable for me to view Jan’s body.  So I didn’t.  It is as if Jan simply disappeared that night.  For all I know, the police killed him.
 


© Copyright 2018 Ethan Deutsch. All rights reserved.

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