King County Apologizes, Pays $2.25 million to Family of MiChance Dunlap-Gittens for Fatal Police Shooting
Posted by Tiffany Cartwright
In May 2020, King County agreed to pay $2.25 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of MiChance Dunlap-Gittens, a young Black man who was shot in the back and killed by King County Sheriff's deputies when he was just 17 years old. King County also issued a public statement apologizing for the loss of MiChance's life and agreed to pursue an initiative named in his honor to require the use of body-worn cameras by King County Sheriff's deputies.
In January 2017, King County Sheriff's deputies were looking for a 16-year-old friend of MiChance's, whom they mistakenly believed was a suspect in a fatal hit-and-run. The deputies concocted an unauthorized and misguided sting operation to seize the 16-year-old by posing as a teenage girl on Facebook and arranging to buy alcohol from the boy. Three deputies hid in the back of an unmarked van and planned to leap out and grab the teenager as he approached the car to deliver the liquor. When a second, unknown boy - MiChance - approached the van to help carry the liquor bottles, the deputies did not call off the operation. Instead, they leapt out of the vehicle, without consistent uniforms, and surprised the boys. MiChance was shot numerous times in the back as he ran back up the driveway towards his apartment. The deputies claimed they saw a gun in his hand; although a gun was found down the hill from MiChance's body, its location was never documented, and a witness reported seeing a deputy move the gun closer to MiChance's body.
Both an internal investigation by King County's Administrative Review Team and an independent, external investigation commissioned by King County's Office of Law Enforcement Oversight found numerous problems with the undercover operation and the subsequent investigation of the officer-involved shooting, but none of the involved officers were ever disciplined. Extensive news coverage of the shooting, the investigations, and the settlement can be found at the following links:
"Deadly Sting, Wrong Target" - The Seattle Times
"Reforms left to 'die on the vine' after teen is killed in 2017 King County sting, report says" - The Seattle Times
"King County agrees to $2.25M settlement with family of teen killed in misguided sheriff's sting operation" - The Seattle Times
MiChance's estate and his mother, Alexis Dunlap, were represented by Tiffany Cartwright and Tim Ford of MacDonald Hoague & Bayless, David Owens of Loevy & Loevy, and Patricia Bosmans. MiChance's father, Frank Gittens, was represented by James Bible.
Tiffany M. Cartwright, Tim Ford