The parents of a Federal Way teen who was fatally shot in the head by King County Sheriff’s officers during a sting operation in 2017 filed a civil lawsuit on Wednesday against King County and the four officers involved.
The suit stems from an incident in 2017 when several King County officers implemented a sting operation to arrest a young man involved in the illegal sale of alcohol. However, the young man’s friend, 17-year-old MiChance Dunlap-Gittens, was killed during the sting due to the officers’ alleged negligence, his mother Alexis Dunlap and his father Frank Gittens argued in the suit.
The suit claims that due to the King County Sherriff’s Office’s alleged lack of proper planning and negligence, unnecessary and unreasonable force was used that resulted in the wrongful death of MiChance.
The King County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.
According to court documents, on the evening of Jan. 27 2017, MiChance was hanging out with a friend, known in the documents as D.R.
Through a King County Sheriff’s investigation, D.R. was found to have been selling alcohol illegally.
“Rather than seeking to interview D.R., make contact with him through an adult, or obtain a warrant for his arrest, Defendant [Michael] Garske created and executed a plan to arrest D.R. by surprise in a nighttime, undercover sting operation,”according to the court documents.
The plan involved the officers pretending to be a 15-year-old girl online and approach D.R. to buy several bottles of alcohol.
They had planned to lure D.R. to a van, jump out and arrest him once he got close enough.
“This plan was unreasonable, negligent, and reckless. It failed to follow accepted police practices, and it unreasonably escalated the likelihood that the encounter would result in a use of unnecessary force,” the suit claims.
On the night of the 27th, Chance was with D.R., and was helping him carry bottles of alcohol to the van.
D.R. had stayed behind during a phone call with the female officer posing as the 15-year-old girl. Chance started carrying the alcohol to the van by himself, when the officers decided they would also arrest him in the same manner they were planning on arresting D.R.
“Despite the presence of an unknown teenager, Defendants did not call off the operation,” the documents read in part.
When Chance got closer to the van, the officers allegedly jumped out to arrest him. Chance was frightened and turned to run away, still holding the bottles of alcohol.
That is when the officers began firing at Chance as he ran to his mother’s apartment.
“Running for his life, Chance did not pose a threat to the officers or any other person,” the documents continue.
The officers continued to shoot, firing off several rounds and hitting him multiple times, including a mortal wound to his head. The documents state that at no point was any of Chance’s behavior threatening.
After the shooting, the defendants allegedly falsely claimed that Chance had threatened them with a firearm they found halfway down the driveway from where he fell after he was fatally shot.
The defendants also “failed to preserve or accurately document the scene, including but not limited to the location of Chance’s body and other firearm and ballistic evidence.”
The suit claims that evidence was not properly tested, there was no accurate crime scene log, the operation was not recorded on radio, and the defendants’ accounts of the operation and the shooting were both “internally inconsistent and inconsistent with the physical evidence.”
After the shooting, King County had also put out public statements, which the plaintiff’s assert falsely claimed Chance had fired a gun at the officers, the documents continue.
According to the documents, King County allegedly later recognized that there were several deficiencies with the incident, including no written operations for this plan for the specific incident and there were unclear roles for the perimeter team.
King County Sheriff’s Department released a statement, saying they would be trying this case in a courtroom and not in the media.
“The events in question were already examined by an inquest jury of King County residents who heard extensive testimony, including testimony from witnesses who are not KCSO personnel. That jury found that Mr. Dunlap-Gittens raised a firearm in the direction of KCSO detectives. Those findings are in the public record and can be found in the attached PDF.
Under our legal system, it’s easy to make allegations. Proving them is another matter. We ask that all interested people keep an open mind while this case unfolds in court. We will not be making further statements about this case at this time because it is in active litigation.”
Accoridng to inquest documents from King County Sheriff’s Department, all six inquest jury members said they believed officer’s statements that Chance pulled what appeared to be a black firearm, however they all also said he did not fire his firearm toward any of the detectives.
The inquest document state a question was also aksed about whether one detective, Detecitve Jones, believed Detective Miller had been shot, to which everyone answered yes after everyone also answered yes that Detective Miller fired a shot at Chance first.
According to the documents, all inquest jury members believed Chance presented a threat despite the fact they also agreed he did not fire any shots from the firearm he allegedly had.