Fife police are investigating the death of an unidentified pedestrian who was killed after colliding with an off-duty sheriff's vehicle early Friday morning. The deputy had just been cleared to return to work after a fatal shooting the previous month.
The sheriff’s deputy who struck a pedestrian in a deadly collision Friday morning in Fife was the same deputy who was involved in the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old man less than a month ago, the King County Sheriff’s Office said.
The deputy had just been cleared to return to work on June 30 after the shooting of Tommy Le, sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West said in a statement. The deputy was identified after the June 13 shooting as Cesar Molina, 38, a 2 1/2-year veteran of the sheriff’s office.
About 2 a.m. Friday, Molina was driving home from work in his patrol vehicle in the 2400 block of Pacific Highway East when he struck the pedestrian, West said.
The pedestrian was hit with “a glancing blow” by the deputy’s driver-side spotlight, then thrown by the force and struck by another vehicle, said Dave Woods, assistant chief of the Fife Police Department, which is leading the investigation.
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The road has no streetlights in that area, and the man was wearing dark clothing, Woods added. The victim has not yet been identified.
“It is very early in our investigation,” Woods said. “We’re still trying to figure out why they were in the roadway.”
On June 13, Deputy Molina responded to reports that a man with a sharp object, maybe a knife, was threatening people in the 13600 block of Third Avenue South in Burien. One homeowner told dispatchers he had fired his handgun into the ground, hoping to scare off the man — later identified as Le, of Burien.
When Le continued to approach, the homeowner fled back inside his house. Le, who was barefoot, then pounded on the door and stabbed it, screaming he was “the Creator,” according to the sheriff’s office.
Deputies confronted Le, who refused commands to drop “what they thought was a knife,” West said last month.
Two deputies fired their Tasers, with one of them hitting Le. But it had no effect, West said.
When Le reportedly moved toward deputies, Molina opened fire. The sheriff’s office later said Le had been holding a pen, not a knife.
Le had just graduated from Career Link, an alternative high-school completion program at South Seattle College.
The shooting is being investigated by the sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit.
Molina has been with the sheriff’s office for 2 1/2 years and had taken 40 hours of crisis-intervention training. Molina also worked as a deputy in California for 2 1/2 years, West added.
After the shooting, Molina was placed on administrative leave, and attended a critical incident stress debriefing and met with a mental-health professional, West said. He returned to work after receiving the approval of a psychologist, she said.
Molina was again placed on leave Friday morning after the collision with the pedestrian.
Deputies involved in a shooting are required to meet with a mental-health professional as soon as possible within 72 hours for a “confidential stress debriefing,” according to sheriff’s office manual.
The mental-health professional recommends what counseling should occur, verifies attendance and coordinates with the psychologist as necessary, the manual says.
Stress debriefings are mandatory when a deputy is involved in an incident that results in serious injury or death or a life-threatening critical incident, including shootings, pursuits, rescue attempts, the death of children by accident or homicide and being shot at or held at gunpoint, according to the manual.
The return-to-work evaluation with a psychologist consists of completing a “Trauma Symptoms Inventory” to identify symptoms of post-traumatic stress and other psychological conditions stemming from traumatic events, Sheriff John Urquhart said in an email Friday. It entails a written half-hour test and a one-hour individual interview, Urquhart wrote.
“The psychologist tells us, in his/her opinion, if the deputy is ‘fit’ to come back to work … mentally,” he added. “We can agree or disagree, but typically we agree. But either way, we can order further evaluation or wait to let the deputy return.”
Molina’s time off was fairly normal but can vary from case to case, Urquhart wrote.