An inquest began Monday into the fatal shooting of Patrick Reddeck last year by three Kent Police officers.
Officers Tim Lontz, Tom Riener and Travis Wilson appeared before Judge Susan Mahoney in King County District Court at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent with their two defense attorneys and King County deputy prosecuting attorney Maggi Qerimi. Mahoney selected a six-member jury and one alternate juror from a pool of 18 candidates.
Police fatally shot Reddeck, 38, on Oct. 12, 2016, in his Kent home after officers said they saw him display a gun as they entered the home to execute a search warrant.
Mahoney explained to the jury the difference between an inquest and a criminal or civil trial.
“This is a very unique proceeding,” Mahoney said. “You are not being seated for a trial. An inquest is to determine the fact and circumstances surrounding the death of a person involved in a law enforcement incident. You become fact finders. … The purpose of the inquest is not to determine fault, it is not to determine credit for a liability, it is not to think about money damages, it is not a policy review, but what happened on a particular day.”
Jurors will receive a set of questions at the end of the proceedings to answer about the case. Each juror will answer factual questions yes, no or unknown as the inquest helps determine if the officers should have fired their guns because they feared Reddeck presented an imminent threat of death or serious injury to them. The findings then go to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to decide any further steps, if any.
King County Executive Dow Constantine ordered the inquest in March. Under a standing executive order, inquests are convened to determine the causes and circumstances of any death involving a member of any law enforcement agency within King County while performing his or her duty. Inquests are to provide transparency into law enforcement actions so the public may have all the facts established in a court of law.
The city of Kent and the three officers are represented by attorneys Andrew Cooley and Derek Chen of the Seattle law firm Keating Bucklin and McCormack. Cooley has successfully defended Kent in a previous inquest hearing against six officers in the shooting of armed subject high on methamphetamine as well as a wrongful death suit following a police pursuit, according to the law firm’s website. The cities of Federal Way, Auburn, Tukwila and others also have hired Cooley in similar cases.
Reddeck’s family could have had an attorney at the inquest but chose not to, Mahoney said. No friends or family of Reddick attended Monday morning’s proceedings. About five relatives or friends of the officers were at the hearing.
Mahoney shared, however, before jury selection, that Reddeck’s father has been in contact with the court.
“He has filed numerous documents and requests over the last several weeks, we had one or two every day last week,” Mahoney said. “I am simply having my court manager print them and file them. He has a right to file motions.”
Mahoney said the father had asked to continue the matter and have Mahoney remove herself from the case, but the judge has declined the requests.
“I understand he has lost his son,” Mahoney said. “He believes there is quite a bit more to the story – maybe there is, maybe there isn’t – but that is not the point of the inquest or this inquiry and so for those reasons, I just wanted to make a record that I have received and considered them. But I find them merit-less and, moreover, because they weren’t filed by an attorney, I simply could decline to address them altogether. But I recognized his interest in this proceeding and thought I should at least mention I received them.”
Mahoney told the jurors later that the Reddeck family can have an attorney participate but elected not to do so.
“You should not read anything into that, it’s just the choice the family made, so there will not be someone here representing the deceased in this matter,” she said.
The judge also explained that Qerimi in her role as prosecutor doesn’t act in a traditional role of trying to prove a person guilty but rather is an attorney for the court.
“She’s the producer, the facilitator of bringing in the witnesses and putting the evidence forth,” Mahoney said.
Unlike a trial, an inquest has no opening or closing statements from attorneys, the judge said. Jurors will hear from witnesses, look at evidence and can ask questions.
Mahoney said she expects the inquest to wrap up by Thursday following witness testimony on Monday afternoon, Tuesday, Wednesday and possibly Thursday. Each officer involved in the shooting is expected to testify.
Officer Riener was part of an inquest in 2010 as one of three Kent officers who fatally shot Mayceo Devangari in July 2010. Devangari reportedly was reaching into his pocket for a weapon, so officers opened fire. The item turned out to be a silver flashlight, but the man had told officers he had a gun and would shoot anyone who tried to stop him as he climbed a water tower. That incident started as a domestic violence case. An inquest jury found the officers had reason to believe their lives were in danger.
Judge Mahoney dismissed two members of the jury on Monday because of their connections to the city of Kent.
She dismissed Dennis Higgins after he revealed he is a City Council member.
“Because this case involves the city of Kent and the officers, this may not be the best inquest for you,” Mahoney said. “So I am going to have you return to the jury room. I’m not saying you can’t be fair and unbiased. … But we want the appearances of this to the public to be as open and fair of a process as possible.”
“I understand,” Higgins replied.
Mahoney also dismissed Josh Berrios after he revealed he is the son of Jim Berrios, a City Council member and mayoral candidate.
Two other jurors were dismissed by the judge because of the small businesses they work for and their need to be at work.