A 46-year-old Muslim refugee from Somalia identified as Hussein Hassan attacked a police officer in Kennewick, Washington, over the weekend with a large sword, striking at the officer’s head before he was shot and killed.
A spokesman for the police said two officers responded to a 9-1-1 call at 6:38 p.m. Sunday about a man walking down Olympia Street near 10th Avenue armed with a sword.
The two officers arrived on the scene at the same time in separate cars at about 6:40 p.m. One officer got out of his car to confront Hassan and police say the man started swinging the sword, striking the officer at least once in the head with the blade.
Both officers opened fire on the suspect and put him down.
The officer was treated and released from an area hospital after receiving 17 staples to close the head wound.
Almost 24 hours later, on Monday evening, police identified the dead man as Hassan, but gave only scant details – his age and current city of residence.
The Tri-City Special Investigative Unit, or SIU, said it is continuing the investigation into the officer-involved shooting, which occurred near the Aspen Hills Apartment complex.
“The Kennewick Police Department is not involved in the investigation since it involves KPD officers,” read a statement on the Kennewick P.D.’s Facebook page Monday. “The suspect in this case has been identified as 46-year-old Hussein Hassan who resided in Kennewick.”
The area where the incident occurred reportedly has a heavy migrant population, but Hassan’s nationality or immigration status remains a tightly held secret.
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office did not return phone calls seeking information on Hassan’s immigration status or whether he had a previous criminal record.
The Tri-City Herald reported Hassan was a Muslim, noting: “Hassan claimed he was wrongly fired from ConAgra Lamb Weston after he fell in a freezer and had a back injury in 2013. He filed a small claims suit against his supervisor, claiming discrimination and workplace harassment because he is Muslim. He asked for $5,000.”
Kennewick, a small city of about 73,000 population, has been a hotbed of refugee resettlement over the years. The U.S. State Department, in cooperation with the United Nations, has distributed more than 475 refugees into Kennewick since 9/11 from Muslim-majority nations, according to the State Department’s online database. That includes 206 from Iraq, 99 from Somalia, 69 from Sudan, 31 from Afghanistan and nine just in the past 10 months from Syria.
The Kennewick police officers involved in this incident were identified as Officer Joshua Kuhn, who has 15 years of service with the Kennewick Police Department and Officer Jason Kiel, who has almost 20 years of combined service with the Kennewick Police Department and the Washington State Patrol. Kiel was named the city’s Officer of the Year in 2015.
Police have not said which of the two officers was wounded in the attack.
As the investigation continues the SIU is asking for anyone who may have witnessed or who may have recorded the incident to contact Sgt. Bob Brockman of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office at 509-735-6555.
Almost all of the Kennewick residents who posted comments on the police department’s Facebook page were supportive of the officers’ quick reaction to put down the sword-wielding Hassan.
Bailey Lane commented: “This was so close to my house where I have two beautiful baby girls who play outside a lot! So thankful to have officers from KPD around to keep everyone safe!”
Another local resident, Lee Livesey, said he thought the officers acted appropriately to protect the community: “I try and stay out of commenting on these things (I did say try), but I want to support and thank the officers involved in this. They did the right thing and probably showed more restraint than I would have.”
Others were dismayed that the Kennewick P.D. released the names of the officers before the investigation was completed.
“I don’t believe the officers should be named until after the investigation in complete. They are now subject to scrutiny!” stated Dinazar Maciel.
Others speculated about whether the attacker could have been a refugee from Somalia or some other Muslim country.
Witness Cheyenne Van Tine was there as it happened and described it as a whirlwind.
“I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, is this man really attacking an officer? And then, when the shots were fired, there were so many gunshots it was just kind of like ‘Is that really what that is? Of course that’s what that is;’ and I had to come up and pull off the side of the road.”
Medics arrived minutes later to treat the injured officer and suspect at the scene. The intersection was shut down for several hours Sunday.
Police say the officer and the suspect were rushed to Trios Health in Kennewick. The suspect died at the hospital.