Judges let Washington state police shooting lawsuit proceed
SEATTLE (AP) — A Washington state appeals court allowed a $10 million lawsuit to proceed to trial against King County and a sheriff’s deputy in connection with the shooting death of a 20-year-old high school student.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued the ruling Monday in the lawsuit stemming from the 2017 death of Tommy Le, The Seattle Times reported.
Le’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the county and sheriff’s Deputy Cesar Molina that was scheduled for trial a year ago, but U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly allowed Molina to appeal his decision not to grant the deputy qualified immunity.
The legal doctrine routinely protects police officers from liability while doing their jobs. It is often used when officers say they had to make split-second, life-or-death decisions.
Zilly issued a ruling saying he believed “genuine disputes of material fact” regarding whether Le was armed and posed a threat to the deputy or others precluded him from extending qualified immunity to the deputy. But the judge could not say the deputy’s appeal was frivolous.
The four-page ruling issued by the appeals court judges said they could only consider “purely legal issues” and were required to construe facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
“A giant step in the path to justice for Tommy,” said Seattle attorney Jeffery Campiche, who represents the Le family.
Tim Gosselin, a Tacoma attorney representing Molina, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.