Renee Davis was five months pregnant when she was fatally shot by King County sheriff’s deputies checking on her welfare Friday night, according to her foster sister, Danielle Bargala.
The 23-year-old Davis had struggled with depression, and she texted someone earlier that night to say she was in a bad way, according to Bargala. That person had alerted law-enforcement officers, leading the deputies to arrive at Davis’ house on Muckleshoot tribal lands shortly after 6:30 p.m.
Bargala, a Seattle University law student, said Saturday that she and other family members have a lot of questions about what happened next. The sheriff’s office declined to comment Saturday beyond what it said Friday night — that the deputies, investigating a report of someone suicidal, found a young woman with a handgun and two small children in the house.
The children were Davis’, ages 2 and 3, according to Bargala. The single mother had a third child, 5, who was at the home of a family friend Friday.
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Bargala said she didn’t know if her sister owned a handgun, although Davis did have a hunting rifle. “She loved hunting,” Bargala said.
Davis had recently killed an elk and a deer, butchered the animals herself and divided the meat among her family. “I still have elk in my freezer,” Bargala said.
Davis also loved working outdoors and participated in a fisheries training program, her sister said. More recently, she worked as a teacher’s aide in a Head Start preschool program.
Bargala said she had never known Davis to be violent, or even to discipline her kids harshly. “She was such a soft person,” Bargala said.
They grew up in a family of seven kids, including two of Davis’ biological sisters and other foster children taken in by Bargala’s parents. Davis, of Native American heritage, came to live with the family on the Muckleshoot reservation when she was in elementary school.
“It’s really upsetting because it was a wellness check,” Bargala said of the encounter between deputies and her sister. “Obviously, she didn’t come out of it well.”
It’s an outcome that Seattle lawyer Ryan Dreveskracht said he is familiar with when it comes to interactions between law-enforcement authorities and those struggling with mental illness.
He is representing the family of Cecil Lacy Jr., a mentally ill Tulalip tribal member who died of cardiac arrhythmia after law-enforcement officers shot him with a stun gun. Lacy’s family has filed a lawsuit against the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, which had a deputy involved in the confrontation.
Dreveskracht said the officers involved in the Lacy incident should have defused the situation but did the opposite. While the Seattle Police Department now trains its officers in de-escalation techniques, many other departments around the state do not, Dreveskracht said.
Davis’ family is now trying to figure out where her children will go. For the moment, according to Bargala, they are staying with relatives.