King County to conduct inquest in 2017 death of man shot by Federal Way officers

Beginning this week, King County will conduct an inquest in the death of Robert Lightfeather. The 33-year-old was shot and killed by Federal Way Police in October 2017, dying of multiple gunshot wounds. The inquest will determine if that shooting was justified.

During the investigation, officials said Lightfeather pointed a gun at two men outside the Elephant Car Wash on Pacific Highway South. Detectives said Lightfeather also aimed a gun at officers arriving at the scene who ended up firing their guns at him.

Inquests are requested by the county coroner to take a closer look at the cause and facts in law-enforcement involved deaths. King County’s charter requires a jury to review all inquests of any death caused by police.

In 2017, inquests were paused over concerns of transparency and clarity of the process. There were questions about rushed deadlines, access to witnesses and orders issued by the inquest administrator. The process was revised after the pause, and in 2021, Washington Supreme Court upheld the changes.

King County Executive Dow Constantine signed an order to resume inquests in 2022.

Lightfeather’s case is the third to be heard under the revised system. The last case was for the death of Charleena Lyles, shot and killed by Seattle Police in 2017. The shooting was found justified during an inquest in July.

The inquest hearings in Lightfeather’s case were scheduled to start on Monday, Aug. 22 but was postponed to Friday, Aug. 26 after one of the officers involved tested positive for COVID-19. 

The hearings will be held at the Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center in Seattle. 

The hearings are scheduled to finish on August 30.