Man files million-dollar claim after crashing runaway suspect

This photo shows the damage to Federal Way resident Jess Todd
This photo shows the damage to Federal Way resident Jess Todd's 1996 Ford Crown Victoria. A suspect in a stolen truck had crashed into Todd's vehicle on May 6.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

By sheer luck and coincidence, Federal Way resident Jess Todd stopped a runaway criminal — and survived.

About 4 p.m. May 6, Federal Way and Milton police officers were attempting to arrest a suspect with two felony warrants. The cops were camped near the Daffodil Motel in Milton, with their suspect at nearby County Line Self Storage. Upon encountering police, the suspect squealed his tires and barreled through the gates of the storage facility in a stolen Ford F-350 truck.

The suspect rammed a Federal Way police car, drove north on Pacific Highway and crashed into Todd's vehicle, which was traveling southbound. The pickup truck spun across the lanes and came to a halt. The suspect was arrested while attempting to flee on foot, and was later booked into Pierce County Jail, according to police documents.

Todd's Ford Crown Victoria was totaled in the collision. He left the scene with a bruised hand and no major injuries. Todd, 82, felt lucky to be alive.

However, the case isn't closed, at least for Todd. In June, he filed a claim for damages worth $1 million with the City of Federal Way. Todd said Federal Way police endangered the public by failing to stop traffic and take proper safety precautions to prevent the collision.

"This action resulted in me being involved in a no-fault accident that could have caused my death or more serious injuries," Todd wrote in the claim.

Federal Way denied Todd's claim in a letter dated June 19: "While the loss of your vehicle due to the incident is unfortunate, the city cannot be responsible for the suspect's actions."

Todd served 20 years in the U.S. Army and went on to a career in law enforcement. He said he has investigated accidents and traffic fatalities over the years. As for the million-dollar claim that was denied, Todd said he never expected a settlement. He just wanted to get someone's attention.

"Common sense and good effective law enforcement would have been to get somebody out there and stop the damn traffic on the highway, knowing what they knew about the guy," Todd said, referring to the police report, in which officers called the suspect a "runner."

"What if that would have been a school bus or a car full of kids?" Todd said of his crash. "Think of what could have happened."

Federal Way police had long been hunting Jeffery Moran, the suspect in the crash, according to Deputy Chief Andy Hwang.

Moran, 30, was a suspect in previous metal and wire thefts in Federal Way. Police had received a tip that Moran was storing and selling stolen items at the Milton storage facility, Hwang said.

After the May 6 arrest, Moran was also charged with assault for ramming the Federal Way police car and injuring Officer Josh Haglan. The officer has since recovered from the back sprain, Hwang said.

"In looking at the situation, I think the officers did everything they were supposed to do," Hwang told The Mirror. "The responsibility (for the crash) falls with the suspect. Mr. Todd just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Hwang added: "I'm really glad nobody was seriously injured or killed."


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