The Washington Supreme Court denied for the time being a request to unmask the off-duty Seattle police officers who took intense political heat after the fact for attending the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally in the nation’s capital.
The huge rally in support of then-President Donald Trump’s claim that the election was being stolen took place as Congress began the process of officially tallying votes from the Electoral College. Some individuals entered the U.S. Capitol building, causing physical damage and halting for hours the count that eventually confirmed Joe Biden’s election as president.
The unidentified law enforcement officials sued to prevent public exposure of their identities, submitting sworn declarations “credibly setting forth the bases for their fear of harm if their identities were prematurely disclosed,” they stated in a brief filed with the court on May 6.
After oral argument on Nov. 9, the court unanimously ordered on Nov. 17 that a lower court’s temporary restraining order prohibiting the disclosure of the police officers’ names be extended pending further proceedings in that court.
In March, King County Superior Court Judge Sandra Widlan ruled against the six officers who filed suit against information requesters, finding that open records laws required that their information be made public. The order was stayed, keeping their identities secret while the officers appealed the ruling.
In August, Adrian Z. Diaz, chief of police for the Seattle Police Department (SPD), fired two of the six rally attendees—Alexander Everett and Caitlin Rochelle, a married couple—after an investigation found, in the chief’s words, that they “crossed the outdoor barriers established by the Capitol Police and were directly next to the Capitol Building.”
It was “beyond absurd” for the two to claim they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to be “amidst what was already a violent, criminal riot” that was “an attack on our profession and on every officer across the country,” Diaz said.
“Make no mistake: as a result of the events on January 6th, five Capitol police officers have lost their lives,” Diaz stated falsely. In fact, only one member of the U.S. Capitol Police, Brian Sicknick, who was on hand for the security breach, died, and his death was attributed to natural causes.
The SPD investigation found three other officers not guilty of unprofessional conduct or of breaking any laws. Evidence as to a fourth officer was deemed inconclusive.
Following the state Supreme Court ruling, Blair Russ and Aric Bomsztyk, lawyers retained by the Seattle Police Officers Guild to represent the unidentified officers, told The Seattle Times they appreciated the court “giving due weight to the results of a formal administrative investigation clearing these officers of any wrongdoing.”
Sam Sueoka, a left-wing Seattle University law student, is one of four individuals to request information about the police officers who attended the rally. Sueoka, who tried to have the conservative Federalist Society banned from campus, also is vice president of the Communist Party USA-affiliated National Lawyers Guild at his school.
Courthouse News reported that Sueoka sought the officers’ names because he worries about police activity in the streets when he exercises his First Amendment rights. One of his lawyers, Janet Thoman, said the student encountered violence during clashes with police during the summer 2020 riots.
“Mr. Sueoka considered that to be one of the most terrifying experiences of his life,” Thoman said.
Neil Fox, a lawyer who also represents Sueoka, told The Olympian that people want to know more about the police officers.
“There is still a great public interest in lifting the veil of secrecy from former President Trump’s attempt to interfere with the peaceful transition of power less than a year ago,” Fox said.
The officers have “to reveal their identities if they want to pursue their lawsuit,” he added.
Fox didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for further comment.