BOTHELL, Wash., May 25, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Three years after Rachael Kamin was killed during a high-speed police chase involving two Bothell Police Department officers, the City of Bothell has agreed to a $3 million settlement in her wrongful death suit. The King County Superior Court approved the settlement on May 17, 2016.
Kamin, a mother of two and nurse at Providence Everett Medical Center, was driving home from work just before midnight on May 12, 2013, when her car was hit by a truck driven by Joseph Strange, a suspect who was being pursued by Bothell Police Department officers.
At the time, a law enforcement supervisor had already instructed the officers to terminate the pursuit, but instead they followed the suspect, then resumed the chase at recklessly high speeds, reaching 90-95 mph on city streets, according to court documents. Just prior to the collision, Strange was driving 85-90 mph and running a red light; the impact propelled Kamin's vehicle half a block. She sustained massive injuries and died two days later at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. She was 40 and left behind a husband and two teenage sons.
"By defying their supervisor's orders and violating Bothell Police Department pursuit policy, officers repeatedly placed innocent people in harm's way," said Robert Gellatly of Luvera Law Firm, the personal injury attorney representing the Kamin family. "They should never have engaged in – let alone continued – this reckless chase and certainly not at speeds that put every driver and pedestrian on the road in immediate, extreme danger."
In addition to the settlement, the case also has helped to reinforce policy changes within the Bothell Police Department designed to improve public safety and bolster compliance with key protocol – steps that tragically came too late for Kamin, Gellatly said.
According to the complaint, the high-speed chase began when a Bothell Police Department officer noticed Strange driving a truck with stolen plates, though department policy prohibited pursuits for stolen vehicles. A supervisor ordered that the pursuit be terminated. The officers then turned off their sirens and lights but followed Strange to a convenience store parking lot where, recognizing he was being tailed, Strange attempted a sharp turn and hit two cars, including the police car. The officers reported this as assault on a police officer and initiated pursuit once more.
Officers chased Strange more than fifteen miles, tailing him at speeds far above the speed limit from Bothell to Everett. Even as the chase moved from the Boeing freeway to Everett city streets, they maintained speeds of nearly 90 mph and ran multiple red lights. At least one pedestrian had to jump out of the way.
Strange was later convicted of second-degree felony murder and possession of a stolen vehicle in a separate criminal trial. He is currently serving a 472-month prison sentence.
"Joseph Strange was in the wrong – criminally wrong – and we are glad that justice has been done," Gellatly said. "However, when pedestrians have to dive out of the way because officers disregard protocol and run red lights, officers must stop and ask themselves if catching a car thief is worth jeopardizing the lives of innocent men and women. Had they done so, Rachael would still be alive today."
Following an extensive internal investigation, Bothell Police Department Chief of Police Carol Cummings concluded that the primary officer violated department pursuit policy at multiple points – first, by initiating on improper grounds, and again, when the danger created by the pursuit outweighed the need for immediate apprehension, according to court documents.
In 2013, at least four police chases in Snohomish County ended in deaths. Following Kamin's death, the Bothell Police Department restricted the circumstances where a pursuit is allowed and provided new chase protocol training for officers. Property crime remains insufficient grounds for initiating pursuit.
"This settlement is scant consolation for the Kamin family's unimaginable loss, but I hope this will pave the way for more responsible behavior from our police departments. We must do everything we can to prevent these kinds of tragedies in the future," Gellatly said. "No one should have to experience the trauma and pain this family has suffered."
About Luvera Law Firm:
Luvera Law Firm is a nationally recognized firm, with high standards of ethical conduct. The firm specializes in medical malpractice, brain injury, death and other major damage cases, and seeks justice for clients as well as positive changes in corporate and governmental behavior. Find more at www.luveralawfirm.com
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SOURCE Luvera Law Firm