The city of Kent agreed to pay $4.4 million to the family of Giovonn Joseph-McDade, the 20-year-old man fatally shot by Kent Police in 2017 after a short pursuit.
The parents of Joseph-McDade filed a civil rights lawsuit in May 2020 in U.S. District Court in Seattle against the Kent Police Department alleging officers wrongfully killed Joseph-McDade on June 24, 2017. The case was close to going to a jury trial.
“All loss of life is tragic regardless of the circumstances,” said city communications manager Bailey Stober in a Wednesday, April 14 press release to announce the settlement. “Our thoughts and condolences remain with the Joseph-McDade family. This settlement is a step in the right direction to bring closure to the family, the officers involved and the city as a whole. This case has been ongoing for several years and it was in the best interest of all involved to resolve the matter.”
Additionally, at the family’s request, the city will design and install a bench in a city park to memorialize Joseph-McDade, Stober said.
“We maintain that the officers involved acted within Kent Police Department policies and Washington state law,” Stober said. “Investigations have been conducted, including assembling a King County inquest jury, and concluded confirming our officers acted within department policies, state law and the scope of their authority.
“This is a case that we were fully prepared to litigate and defend but recognize in the best interest of the family, the officers involved and our community we need to resolve the matter and attempt to bring closure to those involved.”
Attorneys Craig Sims, Kaitlin Wright and Pat Bosmans, who filed the suit on behalf of Joseph-McDade’s estate and his parents Sonia Joseph and Giovanni McDade, have not yet responded to a request for comment from the Kent Reporter. They filed the suit against the city of Kent, the Kent Police Department and Officers William Davis and Matthew Rausch. The complaint was for damages for violation of civil rights.
“Officers violated Mr. Joseph-McDade’s constitutional rights when they shot and killed him after a pursuit that began with Mr. Joseph-McDade driving his car with an expired vehicle registration,” according to a press release about the filing of the suit in May 2020 from the Seattle law firm of Schroeter Goldmark & Bender. “Mr. Joseph-McDade was not armed.”
A six-member King County inquest jury decided in December 2017 that Davis believed Joseph-McDade posed a threat of death or serious injury bodily injury before Davis fatally shot him.
Joseph-McDade, 20, of Auburn, died June 24, from multiple gunshot wounds after he reportedly tried to use his vehicle to run over Davis after a short pursuit on the East Hill that ended on a residential cul-de-sac near Canterbury Park at 99th Avenue South and South 244th Street. Joseph-McDade was a former Kent-Meridian High School student-athlete.
Sonia Joseph walked out of court on the first day of the inquest hearing in protest of the process. She had asked the judge for a continuance in the case so that an attorney could represent the family during the inquest. King County District Court Judge Susan Mahoney denied the request.
An inquest requires jurors to determine facts in a case involving a police shooting. Jurors do not determine fault, money damages or policy reviews. Inquests are an effort to provide transparency into law enforcement actions so the public may have all the facts established in a court of law.
Since that hearing, King County has changed the public fact-finding forum to investigate the circumstances surrounding law enforcement shooting deaths.
The lawsuit claimed that the officers “deprived Mr. Joseph-McDade of these particular rights by engaging in an unreasonable, dangerous and violent vehicle pursuit and performing a seizure of Mr. Joseph McDade in an unreasonable, dangerous, and violent manner, and by shooting Mr. Joseph-McDade without legal cause or justification.
“Defendants Davis and Rausch took actions that no reasonable police officer would undertake, in violation of clearly established law, with willfulness and reckless indifference to the rights of others,” according to the suit. “Defendants are liable pursuant to law for depriving Giovonn Joseph-McDade of his life, liberty, and property, and for punitive damages, compensatory damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”
In a recap of the shooting, the lawsuit states that Officer Rausch saw Joseph-McDade’s 1994 Honda Accord parked near the gas pumps at a Arco ampm parking lot at 10402 SE 256th St. For the next several minutes, Rausch sat in his patrol car and watched Joseph-McDade and passengers inside the Accord. Rausch later reported that he found it suspicious that, while he was watching them, the driver and passengers seemed nervous and one of them “had a scared look on his face.”
Rausch stopped Joseph-McDade for driving with an expired registration—a nonmoving traffic violation, according to the suit. Joseph-McDade initially got out of the car to speak with Officer Rausch and was ordered to get back inside his car. Joseph-McDade complied, and got back into his car. Joseph-McDade began to drive away, and officers engaged in a police chase.
Speeds reached nearly 60 mph in a 35 mph zone along 104th Avenue Southeast, according to police reports.
Officer Davis joined the chase, only knowing the car had an expired registration. Within 1 minute and 22 seconds of first interacting with Joseph-McDade, Rausch attempted to ram his police vehicle into Joseph-McDade’s car, according to the suit. During the next minute, Rausch rammed his police vehicle into Joseph-McDade’s car two more times.
At a period of 2 minutes, 18 seconds, seconds after initiating contact with him, the officers boxed in Joseph-McDade’s vehicle in a residential cul-de-sac at 99th Avenue South and South 244th Street near Canterbury Park. Davis stood near the front passenger side of Joseph-McDade’s car, and shot him twice as he attempted to drive away.
In a written report released by Kent Police after the shooting, Davis wrote that driver Giovonn Joseph-McDade accelerated his vehicle directly at him after he had ordered the driver to turn the car off as well as yelled, “Police, stop!”
“I was afraid that I was going to be seriously injured or killed by the vehicle when it struck me,” Davis said in the report. “I was in a deadly force situation. In an attempt to stop the driver from running me over, I fired twice from my duty pistol as the suspect vehicle continued to drive at me.”
Devonte Cheeks, a passenger in Joseph-McDade’s vehicle and a friend of Joseph-McDade, was not injured during the pursuit or shooting. Cheeks told Des Moines Police detectives who investigated the shooting that his friend tried to find an opening to drive through between the police vehicles in the cul-de-sac. He saw an officer pointing a gun at the car, standing just to the right of them.
“He was yelling, ‘turn off the car, stop the car, get out of the car,’” Cheeks said to detectives. “The cop saw that Giovonn had no intention of stopping so he fired.”
Once the car stopped after Joseph-McDade had been shot, Cheeks crawled out of the car and stayed on the ground until officers arrived.
“The filing of this lawsuit is not an indictment of the entire policing community,” attorney Sims said in the 2020 press release. “This lawsuit has been filed to hold Kent Officers William Davis and Matthew Rausch accountable for taking Giovonn Joseph McDade’s life, and the department’s leadership for approving their behavior. Giovonn should not have been killed by the police that night, and his death was tragic and unwarranted.”