The parents of Giovonn Joseph-McDade filed a civil rights lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle against the Kent Police Department alleging officers wrongfully killed Joseph-McDade on June 24, 2017.
“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 from the Seattle law firm of Schroeter Goldmark & Bender. “Mr. Joseph-McDade was not armed.”
Attorneys Craig Sims, Kaitlin Wright and Pat Bosmans filed the suit on behalf of Joseph-McDade’s estate and his parents Sonia Joseph and Giovanni McDade, against the city of Kent, the Kent Police Department and Officers William Davis and Matthew Rausch. The complaint is for damages for violation of civil rights. Attorneys requested a jury trial.
City Attorney Pat Fitzpatrick has not yet responded to a Kent Reporter email for comment about the lawsuit.
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 claims 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. 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 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.”
Wright, another attorney in the lawsuit, also criticized the shooting.
“This case is about seeking justice for a 20-year-old’s needless death at the hands of law enforcement, and the importance of ensuring accountability so that history will not be repeated,” Wright said.
As for the next steps, the lawsuit will be litigated pursuant to the court’s case-scheduling order, attorneys said. The case-scheduling order will be provided by the court at a later date.