The city of Kent, Washington will pay $4.4 million to the family of Giovonn Joseph-McDade. The 20-year old Black college student was shot to death by police in 2017 following a brief pursuit after he fled a traffic stop. In 2020, Joseph-McDade’s parents filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city. The settlement is among the largest in King County.
In addition to the settlement, the city agreed to install a memorial bench at the shooting location.
Stopped for Expired Registration
On June 24, 2017, Kent police officer Matthew Rausch stopped Joseph-McDade in a convenience store parking lot for having an expired registration. Joseph-McDade had a Honda, a make that is among the most frequently stolen vehicles. There were three young Black men in the car, one of whom left the vehicle when he saw the officer. Joseph-McDade then exited the parking lot with one passenger still inside. Rausch called for backup and pursued the car.
Joseph-McDade’s Honda was not stolen.
Once Joseph-McDade fled the scene, it became a felony eluding crime. Another officer, William Davis, joined Rausch in pursuit. During the chase, the police attempted to perform an intervention technique in which they struck a vehicle in an attempt to spin it. That is a dangerous maneuver and is equated to the use of deadly force, as per the lawsuit. It is not used in pursuits involving expired registrations.
Their attempt failed.
Joseph-McDade then drove his car down a residential cul-de-sac at about 10 miles per hour. The police again used the intervention technique, and his vehicle stopped. According to surveillance footage captured from a neighboring home, Joseph-McDade then back upped and accelerated into a patrol car.
He continued driving back and forth between the two police vehicles. An officer is heard on the video telling him and his passenger to get out of the car. Two shots are then fired, killing Joseph-McQuade. Davis pulled the trigger.
Judge Disputes Police Claims
At trial, the police claimed that Joseph-McDade posed a threat to their lives and public safety. They also alleged that Joseph-McDade was about to run over Davis at the time of the shooting.
However, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein said evidence disputed the claims that Joseph-McDade fled from police at high speed. The evidence also did not show that Joseph-McDade was about to run Davis over. Rothstein noted that during the pursuit, Joseph-McDade used turning lanes and used turning signals. Forensic evidence showed that Joseph-McDade was shot while he was passing Davis, so that the officer was not in danger of being hit.
Joseph-McDade was unarmed.
City Defends Officer
Although they settled the lawsuit, Kent officials defended the officer’s actions as legal and within department policy. According to a prepared statement, they were ready 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.”
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