The attorneys representing Kevin Peterson Jr. and Jenoah Donald’s families in federal wrongful death lawsuits against Clark County are asking the court to combine the cases.
Attorneys Mark Lindquist and Angus Lee filed a motion Jan. 12 to consolidate the two police shooting cases into one trial to be held in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. The lawsuits, alleging wrongful death and excessive force by Clark County sheriff’s deputies, were filed against the county in February and May of last year.
“CCSO deputies have wrongfully shot and killed three individuals, including a Vancouver police officer, in an 18-month period. The fact there has been no termination, discipline or retraining after these shootings is highly relevant to pattern and practice,” a news release announcing the motion states.
The attorneys argue deputies have shown a pattern of using excessive force and that evidence and witnesses in the two lawsuits overlap.
Deputies fatally shot Peterson Jr., a 21-year-old Black man, as he ran, armed with a handgun, from a drug sting Oct. 29, 2020. About three months later, on Feb. 4, 2021, a deputy fatally shot Donald, a 30-year-old Black motorist, during a traffic stop. Both shootings occurred in Hazel Dell.
In July 2021, a panel of prosecuting attorneys from outside Clark County examined Donald’s shooting and found the deputy who fired his weapon acted in “good faith.” That is, a similarly situated law enforcement officer would have also used deadly force under the circumstances.
A month later, an outside prosecutor’s office tasked with reviewing Peterson Jr.’s shooting also found the three involved deputies had acted in “good faith.”
The complaint filed on behalf of Peterson’s family alleges wrongful death, negligence, unreasonable seizure, deprivation of familial relationships, and excessive force and brutality. The complaint filed for Donald’s family alleges wrongful death, assault and battery, negligence, and deprivation of civil rights.
One of the deputies who shot Peterson, Deputy Jonathan Feller, mistakenly shot and killed off-duty Vancouver police Officer Donald Sahota on Jan. 29, 2022, at Sahota’s home near Battle Ground during a manhunt for an armed robbery suspect.
A statewide panel of prosecutors tasked with reviewing that shooting was unable to reach consensus on the “reasonableness” of Feller’s use of force. But Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik later determined no criminal charges would be filed against Feller. No civil lawsuit has been filed in that case.
“If Clark County had disciplined or retrained Deputy Feller after the wrongful shooting of Kevin Peterson, Officer Sahota would likely still be alive today,” Lindquist said in the news release.
If the attorneys’ motion succeeds, the trial date will likely be set in October, the news release states.