Longtime NFL cornerback Richard Sherman was arrested early Wednesday morning outside of Seattle on suspicion of “burglary–domestic violence”—a naming peculiarity of Washington State law that is probably best thought of as a burglary charge involving victims related to the suspect—after a series of incidents the contours of which would only become clearer over the course of the day.
The timing is still confused on this, but the sequence of events appears to be this: Sherman’s wife, Ashley Moss, called the King County Sheriff’s Office to report that her husband had been drinking heavily and had threatened to kill himself, and had “wrestled” with her uncle. She pleaded with them to send help to stop Sherman from leaving. In a subsequent call, the uncle said he and Sherman’s wife had attempted to stop Sherman from leaving and had followed him in their cars, but that he had “cut her off” in traffic and driven away. On that call the uncle said Sherman had threatened his wife. “He told her if the kids aren’t in the car, he was going to hurt her,” the uncle said.
According to the Redmond Police Department and the Washington State Patrol, shortly before 1:30 a.m. Sherman is alleged to have crashed his car into a barrier at a construction site. Sherman then allegedly parked his car in a nearby lot, and police believe he traveled about three miles on foot to the home of his wife’s parents, who had been alerted by family members he might be going there. There was a “verbal altercation” between that home’s occupants and the suspect, according to police, but he was still outside when officers arrived.
Both Redmond PD and four state troopers responded to the scene with a K9 unit. Police said Sherman was cooperative until he was told he would be arrested, at which point they claimed he began to walk away. Officers then set the police dog on Sherman and he was placed under arrest.
Sherman was treated at a nearby hospital for a laceration on his lower leg caused by the dog; one police officer is also said to have suffered minor injury. Sherman was then booked into the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle at 6:08 a.m., where he was denied bail—standard procedure in the jurisdiction for suspects of domestic violence.
“He didn’t harm anybody,” Moss told the Seattle Times. “My kids were not harmed in the incident. He’s a good person and this is not his character. We’re doing all right, just trying to get him out. I want people to know no one was injured.”
The events of Wednesday were laid out first by a PIO press release and later in a press conference held by Redmond police and state patrol, which was followed by the release of the audio of Sherman’s wife’s 911 call, in response to an open records request. It’s disturbing.
“Please don’t shoot, is what i’m asking,” Moss tells the 911 dispatcher, not for the first time. “He has no weapon. He said if the police show up he’ll try to fight them, so they need to understand[.]”
The recording is heartbreaking in any number of ways, but especially to hear her distress, when her concern is clearly for her husband first, and her understandable fear that calling police could make things worse. But she didn’t have any other choice, and that’s basically the problem: It’s not ideal for anyone involved—the caller, the suspect/person in crisis, the officers themselves—that the people you’re forced to call when a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis are the same people who carry guns and are trained to shoot people with them. This, it feels important to note, is what is meant by calls to defund the police—not that anarchy be allowed to reign or that people in danger go unaided, but that some of the roles currently served by police be replaced by those better trained and better equipped to deal with the situation while avoiding violence. Crisis support teams, staffed by psychiatric health professionals, are one suggested solution, but for now they only exist in small local pilot programs, and there’s no consensus, even among the idea’s staunchest supporters, on whether they should act alongside or instead of law enforcement and paramedics. But that Ashley Moss, in the middle of one of the worst moments of her life, should also have to worry that her husband is large and black and have no option but to call police anyway, knowing how many times that’s resulted in unnecessary death, is a tragedy in itself. It’s scary to think how easily this could have gone far worse than it did—and depressing that officers taking Sherman down with an attack dog represents one of the better-case scenarios.
Sherman, 33 and currently a free agent after three seasons with the 49ers, has not been charged but remains jailed. He is expected to appear before a judge Thursday afternoon.
Additional reporting by Diana Moskovitz.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available for people in crisis or those looking to help someone else at 1-800-273-8255. The Crisis Text Line is a texting service for mental health and emotional crisis support available by texting HELLO to 741741. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 or by visiting thehotline.org.