Bizarre incident raises many questions
Commentary by Bryan Tagas
It was a surreal three hours in the otherwise placid life of Madison Park this week: a cross-dressed sous chef terrorizes customers and employees of the neighborhood Wells Fargo office by staging a holdup with a "realistic looking" airsoft gun; makes off with the cash; races down McGilvra in an underpowered Hyundai, just ahead of converging police; somehow manages to flip his car in Denny Blaine; heads for the bushes while shedding his women's attire; leads police on a multi-hour man hunt; allegedly brandishes a fixed-blade knife when finally accosted; runs threateningly towards a police detective while refusing to drop his weapon; is immediately shot dead ("pop, pop, pop" in the words of a witness). Not your typical day in the neighborhood.
If you're at a loss to explain how this sequence of events could possibly unfold here, you're not alone. The robbery and shooting are the talk of the town.
First of all, those who believe it was insanity to attempt a bank robbery in Madison Park should know that it has been done before. The fact that the neighborhood is at a the "end of the road" does not mean that it's impossible to make a successful getaway from The Park. The neighborhood Bank of America branch, back when it was a Seafirst office, was successfully robbed multiple times. It's a challenge, but not an impossible one.
And then there's the issue of Why? It's probably impossible to know. The suspect has been identified as Cody Spafford, a dependable, likable four-year employee at the highly-regarded The Walrus & The Carpenter oyster bar in Ballard. Although he had a police record, according to media reports, Spafford's criminal history had apparently been limited to several misdemeanors and one case of felony possession of marijuana in Oregon. Nothing to presage the high-drama, "act of desperation" he graduated to in Madison Park on Thursday. Almost certainly his close friends and family know something that his co-workers quoted in the press may not have known. But in the absence of that personal testimony, Cody's bizarre presence in Madison Park this week is inexplicable.
And what about that final, tragic scene, seemingly straight out of one of those TV cop shows? As summed up by a local TV reporter, it was not the kind of act one expects to play out "in a neighborhood of multi-million dollar homes." But was it a case of Suicide by Cop? What possesses a young man to lunge at a rifle-toting police officer other than a desire to end it all? This is what the SPD police blotter reported about the incident:
"The detective began talking to the suspect and repeatedly ordered him to drop the knife, but the suspect told the detective he would not drop the knife.
As the detective was working to get the suspect to drop the knife, a lieutenant at the scene called for officers with Tasers to respond to the courtyard.
The suspect, brandishing a knife, ran toward the detective. The detective fired multiple rounds from a rifle, striking the suspect. Officers and detectives called for medics and began performing CPR on the suspect. The suspect died at the scene. Although officers armed with additional less-lethal tools were responding to the incident at the time of the shooting, police are trained to use deadly force when facing a threat from a deadly weapon, such as a gun or a knife."
Perhaps it had to end this way, Cody by his actions having removed the authorities' non-lethal options. A thorough investigation of the shooting and a full reporting of the results will be needed, however, to assuage any lingering doubt.
The homeowner who called police to alert them to Cody's presence on her property adds this postscript: "I have seen the write up on the young man killed. I am so sorry I was a part of this. What happened to those tazers the police were issued?"
Too late, too late.
[Photos courtesy of the Seattle Police Department.]