Fatal shooting inquest is delayed after officer tests positive for COVID

Hearing regarding 2017 death of Robert Lightfeather is rescheduled for Sept. 26.

An inquest hearing to review the 2017 fatal police shooting of Robert Lightfeather involving the Federal Way Police Department was postponed after a Federal Way officer tested positive for COVID-19, according to the county.

The hearing was scheduled to begin Aug. 22. It will now take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, through Tuesday, Oct. 4, at the Clark Children and Family Justice Center (1211 E. Alder St.) in Seattle. The hearing also will be available virtually.

The inquest administrator is Robert McBeth. A new jury will be selected Sept. 22.

Federal Way Officer Tyler Turpin tested positive for COVID on Sunday, Aug. 21, according to the Seattle Times. Attorney Thomas Miller is representing the Federal Way Police Department and both of the officers involved in the shooting — Turpin and Officer Austin Rogers.

Around 10:30 p.m. Oct. 30, 2017, Federal Way police responded to a 911 caller who reported seeing a man pointing a gun at two men near South 316th Street and Pacific Highway South outside the Elephant Car Wash. According to initial reports from police, Robert Lightfeather reportedly pointed the weapon at the officers, and both officers fired at the same time, fatally striking him. Lightfeather, 33, died of multiple gun shot wounds, the Mirror previously reported.

The purpose of an inquest is to shed light on the facts and circumstances surrounding a death at the hands of law enforcement and facilitate public understanding of these events.

At the conclusion of the proceedings, an inquest jury answers a series of questions called interrogatories as directed by the inquest administrator. These interrogatories result in the issuance of a series of findings. The findings may include whether the law enforcement officers acted in line with their agency’s policies and training and whether the death was a result of criminal means.

Hearing inquests had been delayed more than four years by lawsuits after King County Executive Dow Constantine in 2018 paused inquests to address concerns of fairness and transparency and pushed forward with a new process built on stakeholder and community input.

When local jurisdictions, including the city of Federal Way, challenged the new process in court, the new program was delayed until the Washington Supreme Court reaffirmed the executive’s order in July 2021. With the legal challenges concluded, King County is set to resume the inquests to provide clarity, accountability and closure to the public and to the families of those killed by law enforcement.

Reporter Steve Hunter contributed to this article.