SEATTLE – A Seattle police officer shot and killed a man involved in a knife fight Tuesday as officials were working to clean out a homeless encampment known as The Jungle, authorities said.
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole said two longtime police officers participating in the sweep saw two men in an altercation and that one appeared to have a knife.
"In the process, one of the officers discharged the weapon, and one of the suspects was injured," O'Toole said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
She said the officers weren't trying to remove the people from the area as part of the sweep and said it was a coincidence that the officers observed the fight. The officers were trying to separate the individuals before firing at the man with the knife, according to police.
The man shot was critically injured and died later Tuesday at Harborview Medical Center, police said.
The other man involved in the fight suffered a wound to the hand that apparently came from the knife, O'Toole said. A Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman said he was there in satisfactory condition.
Authorities, including the Justice Department and a team that probes the use of force by police, are investigating, O'Toole said.
Police have not released further details including the identities of the men wounded or of the police officers involved in the incident. The officer who opened fire will be placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation, police said.
State and local officials have been working on addressing the needs of people living in unsanctioned camps in a greenbelt that runs along the interstate in south Seattle for months. The plan to clear out the area comes after a January shooting at the camp left two people dead and three wounded.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said in a statement Tuesday that efforts to clear out The Jungle will be put on hold.
"At the same time, today's operation in the Greenbelt was needed, both because of the long history of public safety issues in the area and because of the long-overdue work the Washington Department of Transportation needs to do on Interstate 5," Murray said. "We expect this work to continue at the conclusion of the investigation."