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Family sues Federal Way police over suspect's death

Federal Way police officer Matthew Leitgeb - File photo
Federal Way police officer Matthew Leitgeb
— image credit: File photo

A family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Federal Way Police Department.

David Young, 23, was shot multiple times and killed by Officer Matthew Leitgeb following a chase in August 2010. Police attempted a traffic stop because they suspected Young of driving a stolen vehicle.

Young eluded law enforcement, police said, before the truck went off the roadway and officers performed a pursuit immobilization technique. Two sets of gunfire took place after Young backed the truck toward officers, according to reports.

On Friday, Tacoma attorney Darrell Cochran announced to local media that he filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle on behalf of Young's family.

The lawsuit accuses Leitgeb and the Federal Way Police Department of "unconstitutional use of excessive force" against an unarmed individual suspected of a minor, nonviolent crime. The lawsuit says police officers refused to provide medical treatment for Young as he died from the gunshot wounds.

The lawsuit requests unspecified damages for pain and suffering, plus attorney fees. (read the lawsuit here)

As of Tuesday, Federal Way Police Chief Brian Wilson said the city has not been served with the lawsuit, and that he is unaware of its contents.

"We're waiting to be served," he said. "We will vigorously respond to this lawsuit."

Wilson referred to the 2011 inquest involving the shooting. An inquest is a public hearing of case facts, typically ordered by the King County executive in response to a death at the hands of law enforcement.

In the March 2011 inquest, a jury agreed Leitgeb had reason to fear for his life when firing the first time at Young. The jury was split on whether that same circumstance applied when he fired the second set of shots.

"We strongly believe the actions of the officers were justified and the inquest jury found that to be the case," Wilson said.

An inquest is neither a civil nor criminal trial. An inquest jury does not determine guilt or innocence. It is up to the King County Prosecutor's Office to pursue the case further after considering the jury's findings on whether the shooting victim posed an imminent threat.

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This report contains information from past reports.

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