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King County to Pay $2.25m to Family of Black Teen Killed by Deputies

— May 7, 2020

MiChance Dunlap-Gittens was shot to death in a sting operation against his 16-year old friend.

Washington state’s King County will pay $2.25 million to the family of MiChance Dunlap-Gittens, a 17-year old killed by sheriff’s deputies in a poorly executed sting.

According to The New York Times, the settlement—announced Monday—also includes a promise by the King County Sheriff’s Office to implement policies requiring deputies to wear and use body and dashboard cameras.

Dunlap-Gittens, says the Times, lived in a Seattle suburb. In January 2017, he was asked by a 16-year old friend to bring alcohol to a slightly younger girl in a nearby van.

The Times refers to the arrangement as a “transaction,” set up over social media.

But instead of a girl trying to score alcohol, the van was occupied by King County deputies—one in the driver’s seat, three in the back. They were investigating Dunlap-Gittens’ 16-year old friend as a “person of interest” in a murder.

When Dunlap-Gittens and his friend approached the van, the officers “jumped out”—prompting the two teenagers to turn around and run. The deputies then opened fire, aiming a dozen rounds at Dunlap-Gittens alone. He was hit eight times.

“As he ran up the hill for the safety of his come, Chance was shot numerous times before the shot in the back of his head,” the lawsuit filed by Dunlap-Gittens’ parents says.

The lawsuit, adds The New York Times, was filed in September 2019. It named as defendants King County, a law enforcement supervisor, and three deputies.

Generic sheriff’s badge. Image via Flickr/user:Kim Siever. Public domain.

The complaint accused the county of failing to adequately train, supervise, or discipline the officers involved in Dunlap-Gittens’ killing. Furthermore, the lawsuit claimed the sting was ill considered and poorly executed: not only did the deputies entice the two teenagers into approaching the van themselves, but that the three deputies in the back sprung out dressed in street clothes and tactical vests.

A review of the deputies’ actions, carried out by the Sherriff’s Office’s own internal investigations unit, found no evidence of wrongdoing. In fact, the review panel alleged that Dunlap-Gittens had been brandishing a firearm shortly before he was killed.

That claim, however, has long since been disputed by Dunlap-Gittens’ family and their attorney, Tiffany Cartwright.

“He was holding three liquor bottles,” Cartwright said. “We disputed that he ever raised a gun at officers, and if he had one, he dropped it before he ran away.”

The Times notes that Dunlap-Gittens’ friend later admitted to possessing a firearm. However, there’s no compelling evidence that Dunlap-Gittens himself had a handgun, or that he’d been wielding one at the time of his death.

Dunlap-Gittens’ friend was later cleared of involvement in the homicide that had prompted the sting operation in the first place.

The settlement between Dunlap-Gittens’ family and estate and King County ended with a joint statement, in which all involved parties stressed “[commitment] to moving forward in a way that will focus on opportunities for improvement in police practices that will protect the safety of citizens and officers alike.”

“In particular,” the statement said, “the sheriff and the Dunlap-Gittens family have agreed to explore a partnership in advocating for the adoption of body-worn and dash-mounted cameras by K.C.S.O. officers.”

The Times also recounted Dunlap-Gittens’ parents’ description of their son, as written in the lawsuit: a young man who had a “passion for life, a love of science and plans to become a lawyer.”

“Nothing can bring Chance back to his loving family, friends and community,” the lawsuit said. However, the family did hope for “some measure of justice for the wrongful, unjustified actions of King County officers who killed an African-American teenager they knew nothing about, as he tried to run away from them.”

In its announcement of the settlement, King County said it “extends its condolences to the Dunlap-Gittens family and apologizes for the loss of life.”


$2.25 million settlement reached in King County shooting lawsuit

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King County in Washington Agrees to $2.25 Million Settlement in Teen’s Shooting

Parents of 17-year-old shot and killed during misguided sting by King County Sheriff’s deputies sue for wrongful death, outrage

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