A law firm representing the family of Jenoah Donald, a Black motorist killed by a Clark County sheriff’s deputy in February, intends to seek $17 million from the county in a wrongful death claim.
The tort claim announcement came in a news release Wednesday, followed by a press conference Thursday with Donald’s mother, Sue Zawacky, and brother in Hazel Dell.
In its news release, Tacoma-based Herrmann Law Group said Donald, 30, “was the target of an illegal ‘pretextual stop’ ” by Deputy Sean Boyle on Feb. 4 in Hazel Dell.
The law firm cited a 1999 Washington Supreme Court case that found it’s unconstitutional for police to use a traffic stop as an excuse to investigate suspected criminal activity.
“In Donald’s case, Boyle suspected he was leaving a drug house but pulled him over for a defective rear light,” the law firm said in its news release.
Attorneys for the family said Donald was cooperative when he was stopped. But the situation escalated after Deputy Holly Troupe said she saw a sharp object in Donald’s vehicle, which investigators said they later determined was a screwdriver.
Donald, Boyle and Troupe struggled inside Donald’s Mercedes sedan, as the deputies tried to pull him from the car. Boyle fired twice when Donald ignored commands to let him go as the car lurched forward with the deputy partially inside, according to investigators.
Donald died Feb. 12, eight days after he was shot once in the head by Boyle.
According to investigative reports, Donald did not possess a firearm, and he did not appear to brandish any weapons during the encounter.
On Thursday, Sheriff Chuck Atkins issued a statement calling Donald’s death tragic and sharing condolences with the family.
He said he is waiting to receive the tort claim to evaluate it further.
Atkins noted that per I-940, the investigation into the shooting was handled by an outside agency, and his agency had no role in it. He said he’s awaiting the finding by the prosecutor’s office in the shooting review.
The investigation into the shooting is being examined by a statewide panel of prosecutors from Lewis, Yakima, Pend Oreille, Snohomish and Pierce counties. The panel was created by the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys to help assess whether the deputy’s actions were legally justified.
Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik said Thursday that the panel met, and he’s waiting for its written opinion.
The shooting occurred less than a mile from the site of the Oct. 29 shooting of 21-year-old Kevin Peterson Jr. Clark County sheriff’s deputies fatally shot Peterson as he ran from an undercover Xanax pill sting.
Peterson’s family, also represented by Herrmann Law Group, filed a wrongful death tort claim against the county in March.