Zoom screen capture of Kent Municipal Court Judge Michael Frans at a Jan. 24 hearing for Noah Peterson.

Zoom screen capture of Kent Municipal Court Judge Michael Frans at a Jan. 24 hearing for Noah Peterson.

Kent judge releases man from jail in Meridian school incident

Judge says ‘I have no other options remaining;’ family to take man to Eastern Washington

A Kent judge released a man from the city jail Tuesday, Jan. 24 who initially had been charged for incidents that caused a November lockdown at Meridian Elementary School.

Noah W. Peterson, 26, had criminal charges dismissed Jan. 18 by Kent Municipal Court Judge Michael Frans after state officials estimated mid-July would be the earliest they could have room for him for restoration treatment at a mental health facility.

Frans ordered Peterson to remain in jail until at least Jan. 24 after the dismissal of charges with plans for another competency evaluation by a designated crisis responder (DCR) from King County Crisis and Commitment Services.

“The court heard from a King County DCR supervisor (Julie Gamble), who advised that Mr. Peterson had previously been evaluated by a DCR, and was reported to be doing better and taking his medication,” said Kent City Attorney Tammy White in a Jan. 25 email. “As a result, King County DCRs did not believe a new evaluation was warranted.”

Gamble told the judge that they contacted jail nurses and heard good reports about Peterson.

“We’ve been in contact with jail nursing staff. …they assured us he is doing well, taking medications and have had no behavior problems. They told us he’s doing OK there.”

Gamble said her staff also had been in touch with Peterson’s family.

“We talked with the family and they are prepared to take him today to Chelan County to help him engage in outpatient treatment and provide support for him,” Gamble said

Maxwell Boltinghouse, the attorney for Peterson, asked the judge to release Peterson to his family after the failure of the state Department of Health and Social Services (DSHS) to find a place for him to receive restoration treatment and no further evaluations planned by the county.

“This court has gone as far as it can go,” Frans said. “I have no other options remaining and no other avenues to pursue. I have no choice essentially but to release Mr Peterson today (Jan. 24).”

Frans ruled Peterson incompetent to stand trial on Dec. 30 after two competency evaluations. That ruling also included an order for restoration treatment for Peterson at a state mental health facility through the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Those services would be an attempt to help Peterson become competent to stand trial.

“I can’t hold him for that length of time,” Frans said about July before a state facility would have room for Peterson.

Peterson had faced the two misdemeanor charges after a Nov. 14, 2022 incident near Meridian Elementary, 25621 140th Ave. SE, on the East Hill. The incident resulted in a school lockdown for one day, closure for four days and a town hall meeting to discuss the case that drew nearly 150 people.

Kent Police responded the early morning of Nov. 14, 2022 to a house where Peterson was armed inside with a rifle that he reportedly pointed at his brother, who called 911. Without any actual threat, officers were unable to arrest Peterson. The house is next to the fields at Meridian Elementary School.

Later that morning, Peterson allegedly stood outside the school and yelled threats about shootings and made a throat gesture toward a teacher that she felt was threatening. When officers arrived, Peterson returned to his house.

Due to Peterson’s unstable behavior, access to a firearm, and close proximity to the school (officers later learned that Peterson could see the school and playground area from an upstairs window of the residence), the school was placed in lockdown. Officers surrounded the house and the standoff began as Peterson refused to exit the home. Police said the goal was to have Peterson involuntarily committed because he was in a mental health crisis.

Eventually, Peterson’s father went inside the house and took the rifle and brought it to police. Officers remained on scene but with no probable cause to enter the house for assault, they left. Police kept watch on the house and school until Peterson was arrested two days later.

City prosecutors on Nov. 15, 2022 released probable cause for the misdemeanor crimes that Peterson was charged with. Officers took Peterson into custody on Nov. 16, 2022 after a warrant was issued for his arrest. A defense attorney raised competency at Peterson’s arraignment Nov. 17, 2022, which started the process of whether he was competent to stand trial.

Despite Peterson’s release and the case closed by Judge Frans, city prosecutors could bring the case back at a later date.

“Since the case was previously dismissed by the court without prejudice, the city still has the option to refile charges within the statute of limitations, which is two years from the date of the incident, should Mr. Peterson become competent within that time period,” White said.

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