The family of a 23-year-old mother of three shot and killed in 2016 by King County sheriff’s deputies has filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the sheriff’s office and the deputies involved, alleging they were poorly trained and employed tactics that escalated a tense situation into a deadly encounter.
The lawsuit was filed by Rose Davis, the sister of Renee Davis, who was shot to death by deputies Timothy Lewis and Nicholas Pritchett on Oct. 21, 2016. It also names as plaintiffs the woman’s three young children, who are represented by a guardian ad litem. Besides Lewis and Pritchett, it names as defendants former Sheriff John Urquhart and several ranking sheriff’s detectives and officials responsible for the training within the sheriff’s office and investigating the shooting. They include Jason Stanley, Kevin Compton, Steve Keeny and Undersheriff Scott Somers.
The lawsuit claims that Davis, who lived and worked on the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation, was suicidal and that statements she had made to her boyfriend the night of Oct. 21, 2016, made him concerned enough to seek out Pritchett, who was parked near the tribe’s powwow grounds and ask the deputy to check on her. Pritchett and Lewis responded to Davis’ home in the Skopabsh Village neighborhood on the reservation, which contracts with King County for law-enforcement services.
The federal lawsuit is one of two filed in the case. A wrongful-death lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court last year was dismissed by Judge Andrea Darvas, but not before the judge stated on the record that it appeared to her that the deputies “did everything possible to escalate the situation as opposed to taking reasonable steps to de-escalate the situation and to prevent the need to shoot Ms. Davis.”
A six-member King County Coroner’s Inquest jury in 2017 found Davis posed a threat to the deputies when they fired, but half of the jury found the deputies showed no concern for her welfare.
Sgt. Ryan Abbott, a spokesman for Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht, said Friday the office does not normally comment on pending litigation.
According to the lawsuit, the officers did little to inform themselves about Davis or her situation and approached the home knowing she owned at least one firearm and that two young children were inside.
According to the complaint and evidence produced at a King County coroner’s inquest, the officers pounded on the front door before they entered the home and kicked down the door to Davis’ bedroom while two of her children, ages 2 and 3, stood in the hallway.
The deputies said Davis, four months’ pregnant, was lying in bed and pointed a handgun at them. Attorneys for the family, in legal pleadings have said there was no evidence that occurred outside of the deputies’ “self-serving” statements.
The lawsuit alleges the deputies failed to talk to one another or to try to contact Davis by phone before deciding to enter the house, even though she had been talking to her boyfriend. Pritchett reportedly had had several contacts with Davis before, but did not discuss them with Lewis, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges the deputies pounded on Davis’s door and identified themselves as police, but did not say they had been dispatched to check on her well-being or help her. Eventually, the 3-year-old opened the door, according to the pleadings.
Rather than talking to her, according to the lawsuit, one of the deputies pointed a handgun at her while the other pulled the bed covers off her.
According to the lawsuit, “Less than one minute transpired between when the Defendant Deputies entered Renee’s home to when they fatally shot her.”
The lawsuit alleges the deputies have given inconsistent statements about where Davis’ gun was when they fired, and what happened to it afterward. Lewis said the gun was near her right hand, pointing toward the foot of the bed when he fired, while Pritchett said it was in her hand between her legs. Afterward, Pritchett has said he put the weapon in his utility belt, while a third officer on the scene said it was still in Davis’s hand when he entered the bedroom.
The lawsuit notes she was a victim of repeated domestic abuse and had a legal concealed-carry permit for the handgun.
The lawsuit also alleges the deputies delayed having medical personnel respond, and that Davis bled to death as a result. According to testimony and evidence at the inquest hearing, Davis was not intoxicated or on drugs.
The lawsuit is the fourth federal civil-rights action filed against the sheriff’s office since September. The others:
• A lawsuit filed by King County resident Rodney Wheeler, who claims he was wrongly accused and jailed for a murder he did not commit;
• A lawsuit over the 2017 shooting death of 17-year-old Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens during a misguided sting operation;
• A lawsuit filed by a Metro transit worker who says deputies retaliated against him after he made a secret recording of two deputies harassing him, costing them their jobs.
Also last month, the sheriff’s office settled a federal lawsuit filed by two African American teenagers who were held at gunpoint by a deputy who claimed they were driving a stolen Jeep. It turned out no vehicle had actually been stolen. The Jeep belonged to the sister of one of the boys.