The Redmond City Council Tuesday night voted to pay $7.5 million to settle a wrongful-death claim made by the family of a woman who was shot to death in 2020 by a police officer as she lay unarmed and awaiting arrest outside her apartment door.
Kim Zak, an attorney for the family of Andrea Churna, said the money will go to her estate, her parents and her 8-year-old son.
“While no amount of money will bring Andrea back, the settlement does send a clear message that the Redmond Police Department made some serious errors in the way they handled Andrea’s call for help as well as highlights necessary change in their hiring and training practices,” Zak said.
She said the settlement is believed to be the largest ever paid in Washington before an actual lawsuit was filed.
Churna, 39, had called police seeking help because she believed someone was in her home the night of Sept. 20, 2020. She had been ordered out of her apartment and was prone on the floor waiting for officers to handcuff her when Officer Daniel Mendoza — who had been fired by the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office for poor performance —shot her six times with a high-powered rifle from a distance of about 30 feet.
There were at least a half-dozen officers in the hallway when the shooting occurred, according to an investigation.
Churna came from a law enforcement family and her father, a retired commander and 32-year veteran of the Michigan State Police, said his daughter had called police for help and was obeying their commands when she was killed.
Churna had a handgun in her apartment at the Moderna Apartments in Redmond and had fired a shot into the door before calling police for help. Churna initially left her apartment carrying the gun and two officers fired at her, but missed.
According to statements, Churna went back into the apartment, put the gun down, and then exited with her hands up, wearing a T-shirt and yoga pants. Officers on the scene acknowledged she was not armed. Investigators later found the handgun on the apartment patio. It had jammed and was inoperable, according to a King County sheriff’s investigation.
Police ordered Churna to the ground and were coming up with an arrest plan when Mendoza opened fire with a .223 caliber semi-automatic rifle as she was “proned out” but squirming on the floor, asking to speak to her ex-husband.
Mendoza, 26, had been dismissed as a probationary Whatcom County sheriff’s deputy 14 months earlier for poor performance, according to the investigation records.
Those records showed that Mendoza struggled with virtually every aspect of police work during his seven months as a probationary sheriff’s deputy, unable to recite statutes, routinely getting lost while responding to calls, writing muddled reports and failing tests on topics ranging from appropriate use of force to the county’s pursuit policies.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office reviewed the shooting and declined to file criminal charges pending an inquest, which has not yet been scheduled. Redmond Police Chief Darrell Lowe has hired Force Science Institution, an outside company with a history of favoring police officers, to conduct an internal investigation.
Mendoza remains on patrol as a Redmond police officer, Zak, the attorney, said in a statement.