The city of Bellevue has reached a $75,000 settlement with the family of a Guatemalan immigrant shot and killed by a police officer in 2001...
The city of Bellevue has reached a $75,000 settlement with the family of a Guatemalan immigrant shot and killed by a police officer in 2001.
The mother of 24-year-old Nelson Martinez-Mendez had filed a federal lawsuit last year against the city, Bellevue Police Chief Jim Montgomery and Michael Hetle, the officer involved. Hetle no longer works for the city.
The suit, which arose from legal claims against the city totaling $6 million, alleged that Montgomery failed to see that Hetle received adequate training or discipline before Hetle shot Martinez-Mendez outside an East Bellevue apartment complex.
As part of the settlement, finalized last month, Martinez-Mendez’s mother agreed to drop all legal claims in the case.
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Maria Cleofe Mendez is in ill health and lives in a remote mountain village in Guatemala, said her attorney, Glenn Carpenter Jr. of Kent. She hadn’t paid any attorney fees, pending a settlement or court victory, and did not want to deal with the strain of a trial.
“I couldn’t guarantee this would be over in a year or two,” Carpenter said. “She just wanted to end it.”
Hetle had responded to a domestic-violence call at the apartment building and confronted Martinez-Mendez outside. He told officers he fired his gun when Martinez-Mendez reached for something in his waistband. Police found only a wallet tucked into Martinez-Mendez’s pants.
The shooting triggered an angry protest by some Latino residents.
An inquest jury determined Hetle had reason to fear for his life when he shot Martinez-
Mendez, and prosecutors ruled it justified homicide.
Hetle resigned from the department in 2003 as part of a deal to settle a harassment complaint he lodged against the city before the shooting. The city paid him $30,000.
He now works for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C.
“This was a great settlement, and it releases him from any more distraction,” said Hetle’s attorney, Andrew Cooley of Seattle.
Bellevue city officials said they decided to settle the case because it would have been much more expensive to go to trial, which was scheduled for April. The city already had spent at least $150,000 to defend itself and Hetle with outside attorneys, City Attorney Lori Riordan said.
In October, a U.S. District judge dismissed the federal lawsuit against the city and Montgomery, but not Hetle. The parties already had agreed on a settlement, though, and the deal was binding, Riordan said.
Ashley Bach: 206-464-2567 or firstname.lastname@example.org