Officers have arrested three teens – ages 15, 16 and 17 – who were reportedly in a pickup truck fleeing from Kent Police on Sunday when an officer in pursuit accidentally struck and killed another officer who had deployed spike strips to stop the truck
Officer Diego Moreno, 35, died at the scene from his injuries after he was hit by a police vehicle near the intersection of West Meeker Street and Kent Des Moines Road after he utilized spike strips. Kent Police were chasing the truck after multiple shots were fired at about 1:50 a.m. near the Shari’s restaurant, 24525 Russell Road.
Kent Police arrested one teen, a passenger, shortly after the incident when the red Dodge Dakota crashed a short distance down Kent Des Moines Road from West Meeker Street. The other two fled on foot but were arrested later on Sunday, said Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla at a press conference Monday afternoon.
“I’m relieved to report that two additional suspects – the driver and the additional passenger have been taken into custody,” Padilla said.
Police have not yet released what the teens were arrested for or what charges they might face. Police also did not release hometowns of the teens or where police arrested the two who initially escaped officers and a K-9 unit. Police said the driver was 16 years old.
“We expect several charges,” Padilla said. “They were booked on several charges.”
The Valley Investigative Team, composed of detectives from multiple neighboring agencies, will oversee the investigation led by the Renton Police. The Washington State Patrol will assist with the collision.
Padilla said the name of the officer in pursuit of the pickup will not be released at this time. The officer remained Monday in satisfactory condition with severe leg injuries at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
“He is absolutely one of our finest,” Padilla said about the 18-year veteran who chased the suspects. “He has served this community beautifully. He has been in many life-and-death encounters on your behalf. He is an expert in multiple facets of this career. He is a hero. He needs our support and we need to support him.
“What people need to know is that law enforcement isn’t cut and dry. Good people doing their absolute best to serve your community sometimes fall upon tragedy,” Padilla said. “Split-second decisions are made, life and death are in the balance and we can’t always get it the way we want it to be. But I can assure you, the pursuing officer in this case is one of the best, and we love him.”
Mayor Dana Ralph said at the press conference she will help make sure the fleeing suspects face severe charges.
“I want to make this extremely clear – as the mayor the buck stops with me,” Ralph said. “There is no place in Kent for crime or violence against any of our residents or our police officers. I will do everything in my power to ensure the individuals responsible for this are prosecuted to the fullest extent. That is my promise to you.”
Padilla declined to answer specific questions about Kent’s vehicle pursuit policy.
“At this time, I don’t want to get too far into that, but when you have violent criminals jeopardizing the safety of the public, our officers will respond and do the right thing,” he said. “Our officers were doing the right thing. … We weren’t chasing people because they had a tail light out. We were chasing people that had just shot up a portion of our town. The officers weren’t aware if anyone was killed or injured, they were doing their best to bring violent criminals to justice.”
Police were unsure if the shooting prior to the pursuit had anything to do with gangs.
“It’s always a possibility,” said Kent Police spokesman Jarod Kasner after the press conference.
No shooting victims were discovered. Police confirmed multiple gunshots were fired near West Meeker Street and Russell Road.
Moreno, of Auburn, is survived by his wife and two children. He worked eight years for the Kent Police.