Police negligence: Jury awards $1.1 million to slain Federal Way woman's estate

Federal Way resident Baerbel Roznowski died May 3, 2008. - Courtesy photo
Federal Way resident Baerbel Roznowski died May 3, 2008.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

A jury found the Federal Way Police Department negligent in enforcing a 2008 anti-harassment protection order issued to Chan Ok Kim, who murdered his live-in girlfriend, Baerbel Roznowski, hours after police served the order.

The jury ruled unanimously Dec. 22 that the department was negligent in enforcing the order. It ruled 10-2 that the negligence caused the May 3, 2008, death of Roznowski, 66. The civil suit was brought by Roznowski's daughters, Carola Washburn and Janet Loh, both of California, in May 2009. The jury awarded Roznowski's estate $1.1 million.

The suit was not about the money, but was "to prove a point," Washburn said Dec. 23. She called the suit a wake-up call for the police department, and hopes that it prevents another tragic incident such as her mother's.

"We were my mom's voice for this," she said. This is really all about bringing attention to the negligence of the Federal Way Police Department in enforcement of orders," Washburn said. "They seem to lack even the most basic training in domestic violence."

Roznowski's death could have been avoided had Federal Way police officer Andy Hensing, who served the order, read the Law Enforcement Information Sheet that accompanied the order, Washburn said. The sheet is used by law enforcement in filing the order. In Roznowski's case, the LEIS included the type of order being served and indicated that Roznowski feared Kim may react violently to the order. It also provided information that Kim lived with Roznowski and required an interpreter.

"He didn't read the order; he didn't explain the order," Washburn said. "Those small things could have saved a life."

Police serve the order

On May 1, 2008, Roznowski obtained an anti-harassment protection order against Kim, her live-in boyfriend of 16 years. Kim was served the order by Federal Way police officer Andy Hensing at 8:13 a.m. May 3 at Roznowski’s home, 2012 S.W. 353rd St. The order required Kim to remain at least 500 feet from Roznowski. According to Hensing's report, he saw a person in the background when he served the order, but was unable to determine who the person was.

Kim, who primarily speaks Korean, told the officer he understood the order and what was expected of him.

"(Kim) was completely compliant and prepared himself to leave the residence, and there were no concerns at that time," Federal Way police spokeswoman Cathy Schrock said in July 2008, when police learned Washburn and Loh were upset with how police served the order.

Approximately three hours after Kim was served, police were summoned back to the Roznowski home. Kim had returned to the residence. Police forced entry into Roznowskis house and found she had been stabbed multiple times. Attempts to revive her were unsuccessful.

The daughters feel that, had Hensing ensured Kim left the household immediately that day, and had he ensured that Kim understood he was not to return, their mother would still be alive.

"They are a substandard police department and they definitely need to improve training and realize protective orders are supposed to be enforced," Washburn said.

Protection orders

Bob Christie, who represented the City of Federal Way in the suit, said Hensing carried out his duties, as prescribed by law, when serving the order. Anti-harassment orders are generally sought when there is a civil dispute over property, Federal Way police chief Brian Wilson said. The order does not require the respondent leave the residence immediately, Christie said. Police must give the person served time to comply with the order. An anti-harassment order does not require that police stand by or make an arrest if the respondent does not immediately vacate the premises.

Roznowski filed her order in an attempt to get Kim to remove his belongings from her home so she could sell the place and move to California, Christie said. Roznowski spoke with a domestic violence advocate, prior to May 1, and was advised she ought to seek an anti-harassment order because she would not qualify for a domestic violence protection order, he said.

A domestic violence protection order is sought when the petitioner is experiencing domestic violence, as defined by the law. RCW 26.50.010 defines domestic violence as "(a) Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, between family or household members; (b) sexual assault of one family or household member by another; or (c) stalking as defined in RCW 9A.46.110 of one family or household member by another family or household member." The order requires the respondent leave the premises immediately, that police stand by while that happens and that an arrest is made if the respondent does not leave, Christie said.

Christie said Hensing knew he was serving an anti-harassment order, not a domestic violence order, and had no reason to believe Kim would react violently when being served.

"This lawsuit involved a couple that had lived together for almost 20 years with no history of any domestic violence between them," Christie said.

The jury made its decision based on the presentation of the law, which was given by King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas, governing anti-harassment orders, Wilson said.

"The judge, in this case, in our opinion, made a major mistake in a legal ruling, where she essentially decided an anti- harassment order needed to be treated the same as a domestic violence order for purposes of enforcement," Christie said.

Based on the judge's presentation of the law, Federal Way will likely appeal the ruling, he said.

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