Southbound l-5 lanes reopened after shutdown Saturday due to pedestrian in roadway

Washington State Patrol trooper respond to a pedestrian on Interstate 5 Saturday afternoon. (Photo courtesy Washington State Patrol)

A man walking shirtless in the roadway along Interstate 5 prompted the Washington State Patrol to shut down all lanes of southbound Interstate 5 for almost 90 minutes Saturday.

The closure, which began just before noon, caused an approximate seven-mile backup stretching from 220th Street Southwest in Mountlake Terrace to 128th Street Southwest in Everett.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Rocky Oliphant initially reported via Twitter that mental health professionals had been advised of the situation. Troopers did not try to remove the pedestrian from the freeway but were following him slowly in an attempt to communicate with him, Oliphant said.

The man began speaking with troopers on scene before being taken into custody, and was then taken to a hospital, Oliphant said.

  1. This is all because of the new house bill 1054 which limits law-enforcement ability to arrest without probable cause of a felony. Just absolutely ridiculous. Did you know that they can’t chase you if you’re speeding either? We should all just speed down the highway shirtless, fools!

  2. It’s devastating watching your state purposely, willingly self destruct. There is no system of logic that can explain what we are turning into. We are becoming an uncivilized mess that confuses weak idiocy for empathy. Who exactly are we helping? Did we help that man yesterday by letting him roam around on the freeway? Did we help one person on the planet by letting an obviously troubled person roam around on the freeway? Want to know what I want in the next Edmonds police chief? Someone who can ensure our safety and freedom without using unnecessary force. We can discuss the methods but this example will not be considered.

  3. This is a very good point. This is not a victimless bill. There are a lot of consequences, and there absolutely will be casualties from this bill.

    So what can be done about it? For starters BOTH of our representative were sponsors of this bill Lillian Ortiz-Self and Strom Peterson were not just signers of HB 1054, but were sponsors. The King County Sheriff said that they gave multiple warnings about the consequences of these bills, and were ignored.

    There are times when the police will be forced to do nothing while they know that those actions are a threat to the safety of the public.

    Here are the actions I would love to see happen to address these issues.

    1) Get a comprehensive review from nearby police agencies of areas of these new bills that could present safety or logistical risks to the safety of the public or officers (My Edmonds News summarized some of these very well).

    2) Organize public review sessions of the risks of these new policing bills, and invite our local representatives to participate.

    3) Advocate to local representatives to make targeted changes to address the safety risks of HB 1054 and HB 1310.

    4) Set up a public donation fund for legal challenges to these bills, and challenge in the courts.

    5) Advocate for a State Bill that would hold legislators accountable for bills that lead to the unnecessary deaths of citizens.

    6) Advocate for a Federal Bill that would hold State and City leaders accountable for policies that lead to the unnecessary deaths of citizens (accountability for defund cities that have increased murders and crime).

  4. Love your suggestions, but how and where to start? I think the citizen are ready for a change back to reasonable and common sense thinking.

    1. Thank you for your kind words Jan. I think one of the best ways is to start with coordinating better information and public interaction from our local police departments on how these bills will affect us. Our local Edmonds Police Chief Bennett said that she will be developing a set of videos to explain to the public what these new policing laws will mean for us.

      This effort really should be taken in coordination with all of the other city police departments in Snohomish County.

      From both a logistical and financial perspective, that makes a lot more sense. That would set up a more professional and comprehensive look at this issue, it would allow the results of that review to reach a larger audience, and most importantly, it would bring together a significant group of constituents and representatives to look at this issue.

      I think that would be a good first step to starting a productive discussion that would lead to positive changes.

  5. So, if they had the guy covered with several cars with flashing lights, why did they have to shut the highway down for five hours? Why couldn’t cars just slow down and pass to the right or left at a safe distance as required by law? This all sounds a little bogus and publicity seeking to me on the part of the police, who we know want no part of these laws. If the shut down was done just to make a point, none of us are being served well by the laws or the police.

    1. It is because if you have someone wandering around the road, you cannot know that they will not wander into traffic.

      I actually had a similar situation happen to me decades ago on I-5 in Oregon that I nearly died from. I was driving home from college in CA, and was on I-5 late at night in a section where it was a 2 lane road, when I came around a bend with an RV stopped in the fast lane and a person wandering around in the other lane. I possibly could have gone on the shoulder but did not want to risk hitting the person. I slammed on the brakes, and was not going to stop in time when I remembered a driving tutorial in a racing game that I had been playing and remembered the E-brake. I pulled the E-brake while driving and stopped right in front of the RV. About 5 seconds later I heard a car slam on their brakes for about 2 seconds before they slammed into me going at about 60 miles an hour.

      Without hitting the E-brake I would have been accordioned between the car that hit me and the RV. I usually start the telling of that encounter with “how video games saved my life.”

      The main point of it for this story is that people wandering around the roadway are a threat to everyone’s life. Recent laws meant to prevent police interaction with people suffering mental illnesses were well intentioned, but very poorly thought out. It absolutely will lead to increased dangerous interactions with the public with those experiencing deadly mental health crises. As well as encourage an increase in crimes by allowing criminals speeding away to get off scot free by police who are prevented from pursuing.

      People will die from the poorly thought out bills that were sponsored by our representatives, and our representatives will never enact changes unless their constituents convince them to.

  6. “Why couldn’t cars just slow down and pass to the right or left at a safe distance as required by law? ”

    Because, sadly, there are a lot of idiot drivers.

  7. So, the police totally shut down the freeway for five hours because they think they aren’t allowed to physically detain someone acting crazy who might run into traffic; and the world is full of idiot drivers. I still think there is something missing in all of this and question that the freeway absolutely had to be shut down for five hours. I would love to hear the head of the WSP make a statement as to why the freeway absolutely had to be shut down because of this event. Being a policeman is a dangerous job and driving on a freeway is a dangerous activity because people are often unpredictable. The only way to stay reasonably safe is sensible, defensive driving. No perfect or imperfect law or laws are going to make everyone, including police, in situations like this safe and secure.

  8. After re-reading the article, I see the shut down of I-5 was actually 90 minutes, not five hours as I wrongfully stated. I don’t want to be unfair to anyone by overstating something. I was just dead wrong on the time I stated. This was not intentional on my part, and a bad mistake to make.

    Still when you look at the Trooper’s Twitter statement, “that mental health authorities had been advised of the situation,” (which sounds a little sarcastic to me) combined with the still lengthy 90 minute shut down of the freeway, you have to wonder if we aren’t being stroked a little bit about what could or couldn’t be done to have made this situation better for all concerned. I seriously doubt that there would have been any serious problem or repercussions for the police, if they had decided to physically prevent this man from walking into traffic for his own protection earlier on in the event or allowed traffic to proceed slowly around the event. I think we deserve a better explanation about what actually happened and why certain decisions were made here.

    1. I think the hard thing is that it is easy to make recommendations like that when we do not have nearly as much to lose as the officers do.

      The new policing laws change the game for law enforcement, criminals, and for the rest of the public. If you think of everything as a series of decisions based on cost/benefit analysis, than we all make choices based on what we will think is best for us at the time.

      For police, their whole goal is to enforce laws to allow the rest of us to live safe lives. However, they are also people with families, livelihoods, and their futures to consider. HB 1054 and HB 1310 were intended to reduce violent encounters with police, but the legislators who passed these laws gave little to no consideration for the consequences of the loopholes for criminals and poor wording that will lead to more suffering and death among the residents of this state.

      One wrong interaction with a mentally ill person could lead to loss of a job, devastating financial consequences, and even jail time for a police officer. It is easy for us with little on the line to say that the police should just continue normal reasonable interactions with mentally ill people, but these poorly thought out bills put serious roadblocks in the way for safe and reasonable police interactions.

      These bills are well intentioned, but poorly crafted, and frankly it is on the fault of the public if we do not advocate for fixing them.

  9. Points well taken, Evan, and I don’t necessarily disagree. My point is that the police owe us a detailed explanation as to exactly why they chose to handle this situation the way they did. Exactly why was it necessary to close down the freeway? Were they actually duty bound by the new law not to take any action until mental health authorities had been brought into the situation as implied by the Trooper’s tweet? (This Trooper, as the information officer, speaks for the entire WSP). Was his tweet a responsible comment about what needed to happen to handle the situation according to the new law?

    As far as your accusation that the new laws are poorly crafted, what specifically do you object to in the new laws and what would be your correction to make them work the way they are intended? Do you think because the police job, by it’s very nature of being dangerous, should give them a pass on any accountability for their actions? We are talking about an issue that is literally tearing the country apart and it’s serious business. I admit I don’t have the answers, but apparently you do, so lets get them in writing.

    Personally, I don’t think we’ve given the new laws a reasonable time to see if they could work. There will be more incidents and the laws will be tested in the courts. It’s possible the laws might end up being helpful to the police, in terms of actual ground rules for what they should or shouldn’t do. It’s possible that the situation we are talking about was handled beautifully by the police and came out the way it was supposed to. Being held up on the freeway, isn’t the end of the world after all. Some people were inconvenienced but nobody got killed and no policeman is going to lose his job, so maybe the new laws are a good thing? Time will tell.

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