'An extreme outlier:' Rental Association reacts after King Co. detective is shot serving eviction notice

The Rental Housing Association for Washington state said evictions have become very lengthy and are costly court cases for landlords. However, they usually don't end in violence or death. 

An incident like the one King County Detective David Easterly was involved in is an "extreme outlier," according to the Rental Housing Association.

Easterly, who's been with the department 25 years, was serving a final eviction notice against 29-year-old Eucytus Eucytus in Ballard on Monday morning. Gunfire erupted and Easterly was hit in the upper torso, the shot missing his bulletproof vest. 

He remains in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center. 

Eucytus was found dead inside the apartment they were being evicted from. The Medical Examiner's Office determined they died by suicide. 

Officials said the investigation into the eviction started in January. There's a long checklist before a sheriff's deputies are tasked with a court-ordered eviction. 

Rarely does it escalate to the situation in Ballard. 

"The vast majority of the time it never goes that far, the eviction proceedings has different pressure relief points of which the issue is resolved before a sheriff arrives," said Sean Flynn, the executive director for the Rental Housing Association of Washington.

Ryan Weatherstone, a landlord attorney, said generally, notices have to be posted giving renters 14 to 30 days make good, and payment options are available. There are also many other steps a landlord has to take before heading to court. If it gets to that point, the renter is given an attorney at no cost, according to legislation. On the off chance the judge has made their rulings, the landlord has posted all notices and the renter has not moved out; a writ of restitution is signed letting them know legally they have to move out.

"The sheriff will take this document and go post it to the resident's door and let them know that they have at least three court days before they can be removed from the property," Weatherstone said.

Basically, this is an indication for the renter letting them know they're on a time crunch and have to move out quickly as deputies can return at any day.

"Now in most counties, the sheriff will not disclose the date of the physical eviction and there are valid reasons for that. Number one, I think is what we saw earlier this week because we don't want a tenant to be able to ambush a sheriff's officer," Weatherstone said.

"It is very, very difficult to know which one is going to be the extreme minority, which is why the law requires the sheriff to do the physical eviction," Flynn said. 


Suspect who shot King County detective identified; detective remains in critical condition

Several police agencies responded to Seattle's Ballard neighborhood after King County Sheriff's detective David Easterly was shot Monday morning. 

While some said Monday's incident is the extreme in these situations. King County 211 hotline Manager Tiffany Olson said they've seen an increase in rent assistance and eviction protection calls over the last few years.

The number of total callers for 2019 was 80,701, with 3,184 specifically asking for eviction protection. Those numbers up to 100,986 callers in 2022, with 5,969 calling for eviction help and 17,960 inquiring about help on rent. 

"It's absolutely an alarming amount," Olson said. "A lot of it has to do with the lingering impacts of COVID, and of course, inflation. The cost of living is just really drastically increasing."

However, Olson said the number did slow from 2021 as eviction moratoriums and funding were made available. However, already in 2023, 40,509 people have called with more than 1,500 asking for help preventing eviction. 

A trend she said is on track to be on par with last year, if not an increase. The majority of callers are minorities and people of color. 

Weatherstone said evictions are not a win for landlords, and heading to court is never their goal. 

"People are still in the hole or just in a hole a lot deeper by the time it gets to the court and it's almost like it gets to a point where the hole is almost too deep to dig out," Weatherstone said.

The Rental Housing Association said they've proposed legislation to help those struggling with rent. The bill was not heard in committee, and that's something they say they're now looking forward to next year with new ideas.

"Imagine if when sheriff's deputies went out to serve or it's a restitution, there was a mental health counselor they want to work," Flynn said.

Both attorneys and housing officials agree something needs to be done to help both renters struggling to pay their rent, and landlords to prevent evictions.

Right now, funding is still available for those who qualify.