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Family of Black man to sue county over fatal traffic stop

June 24, 2021 GMT

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — Family members of a Black motorist fatally shot by a southwestern Washington deputy in February after a traffic stop say they intend to sue Clark County over his death.

The family of Jenoah Donald is alleging wrongful death in the claim announced Thursday, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Attorney for the family, Mark Lindquist, asserts Clark County Sheriff’s deputies’ traffic stop was illegal, citing a 1997 court case that he said bars Washington police from using traffic stops as cover to investigate drug crimes.

“The deputies believed Jenoah was leaving a drug house, but they did not have probable cause to pull him over for a drug crime. So, instead, the deputy pulled him over using the excuse of a defective rear light,” Lindquist said.

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Donald lived in the city of Battle Ground and died Feb. 12, eight days after he was shot once in the head by 21-year-old Deputy Sean Boyle.

Investigators said deputies had been responding to a complaint of a “drug house” in the area. One deputy thought she saw a weapon in Donald’s car, leading another to try to forcefully remove him from the vehicle, investigators said.

When the car began to move as he was grappling with Donald, Boyle fired his gun, according to investigators.

Donald’s mother and brother said Thursday they hope to dislodge more facts through the lawsuit and to hold the Clark County Sheriff’s Office accountable for Donald’s death.

Donald was the second Black man killed by deputies in four months. On Oct. 29, a law enforcement task force attempted a drug sting involving 21-year-old Kevin Peterson Jr. It ended with three deputies firing at Peterson as he ran away while carrying a gun.

Peterson’s family announced its lawsuit in March. Neither the families nor their attorneys have elaborated on what damages they will seek. Tacoma-based Herrmann Law Group represents both families.

Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins in a statement Thursday called Donald’s death tragic and said his condolences are with Donald’s family.

He said his office is waiting for a statewide panel of prosecutors from Washington state to finish their review of the shooting investigation and said the sheriff’s office will review the tort claim from the family when they receive it.

“We will have no further comment on the matter pending completion of the (panel’s) review,” Atkins said.