Giovonn Joseph-McDade was shot dead after a low-speed pursuit for an expired vehicle registration.
The city of Kent, Washington, has agreed to pay $4.4 million to the family of Giovonn Joseph-McDade, a 20-year old Black man who was killed by local police following a short pursuit.
The parents of Joseph-McDade, says the Kent Reporter, filed a civil rights lawsuit in May 2020. Lodged in U.S. District Court in Seattle against the Kent Police Department, the complaint alleged that officers used excessive force and wrongfully killed Joseph-McDade.
Bailey Stober, a communications manager for Kent, announced the settlement early on Wednesday.
“All loss of life is tragic, regardless of the circumstance,” Stober said. “Our thoughts and condolences remain with the Joseph-McDade family. This settlement is a step in the right direction to bring closure to the family, the officers involved and the city as a whole.
“This case has been ongoing for several years and it was in the best interest of all involved to resolve the matter.”
The Kent Reporter notes that the city has also agreed to install a memorial bench for Joseph-McDade in one of the city’s parks.
Nevertheless, Stober and the city of Kent maintain that local law enforcement did nothing wrong.
“We maintain that the officers involved acted within Kent Police Department policies and Washington state law,” Stober said. “Investigations have been conducted, including assembling a King County inquest jury, and concluded confirming our officers acted within department policies, state law and the scope of their authority.”
“This is a case that we were fully prepared 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,” Stober added.
The Seattle Times recounts how Kent Police Officer Matthew Rausch had initially stopped Joseph-McDade on June 24, 2017, in a convenience store parking lot.
While Rausch said the car had an expired registration, his report indicated that he focused on the vehicle because one of the three Black men inside “appeared startled” and exited after spotting the officer.
Rausch then called for backup and put on his lights. However, Joseph-McDade continued to drive away from Rausch.
Although Rausch swore in court that Joseph-McDade “punched [the gas]” when he drove away, evidence submitted before the bench indicated that Joseph-McDade had, in fact, been driving under the speed limit of 35 miles per hour.
When pursuing Joseph-McDade, Rausch allegedly use a technique known as the PIT maneuver to force Joseph-McDade to lose control of his vehicle and come to a stop. While the maneuver was not successful, Joseph-McDade continued driving—and, interestingly, continued to use turn signals and utilize designated turning lanes.
Joseph-McDade eventually entered a cul-de-sac, traveling about 10 miles per hour.
Even though Rausch claims that Joseph-McDade accelerated towards him after he exited his cruiser, evidence shows that another Kent Police car had rammed Joseph-McDade’s vehicle, moving it closer to Rausch.
Rausch responded by firing two shots at Joseph-McDade’s car; they struck Joseph-McDade in the chest, and he died at the scene.
Attorneys for Joseph-McDade’s family argued that Rausch and his colleagues’ actions were unwarranted and negligent—in large part because an expired vehicle registration should not have triggered the use of intensive, potentially deadly force, including Rausch’s attempted PIT maneuver and the subsequent shooting.
“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,” the lawsuit said. “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.”
The terms of the settlement include a $4.4 million payment to the family of Joseph-McDade, as well as the erection of a memorial bench.
Joseph-McDade, notes The Seattle Times, was unarmed at the time of his death and had been traveling under 9 miles per hour when Rausch shot him.