PRESS RELEASE: MHB Lawyers File $10 Million Claim For Police Shooting Death
On January 11, 2019, MHB partners Tim Ford and Tiffany Cartwright, along with Puyallup lawyer Pat Bosmans, filed a $10 million Tort Claim against King County and the King County Sheriff’s Office on behalf of the Estate of Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens and his mother, Alexis Dunlap. The Tort Claim alleges King County is liable for Mi’Chance’s wrongful death, and for assault, false arrest, negligence, injury to child, and civil rights violations. It contains this description of the events that it is based on:
Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens was a 17-year-old African American youth who was shot and killed by King County Police on January 27, 2017, in Des Moines, Washington, in a reckless and negligently supervised “sting” arrest.
Mi’Chance was shot from behind, in the buttocks, legs, and head, as he ran away from King County officers who were trying to arrest him along with a 15-year-old boy whom they wrongly believed was involved in an incident in Sammamish, Washington in which the son of a Seattle police officer was killed. Neither Mi’Chance nor the 15-year-old had anything to do with the Sammamish incident, but the poorly trained and supervised officers jumped to the false conclusion that the 15-year-old was involved, and hastily set up a “sting” arrest.
By text message, undercover officers pretended to be interested in buying liquor that the 15-year-old had for sale on Facebook. When the 15-year-old and Mi’Chance approached the officers’ van, bottles in hand, in the parking lot in front of the apartment house where Mi’Chance and his mother lived, the “sting” officers jumped out of the back of the van, guns drawn. Within one second of exiting the vehicle, one of the officers shot Mi’Chance. Mi’Chance turned and ran, and other officers fired 11 more shots at him as he did. Several bullets struck Mi’Chance; the one that hit him in the head killed him. At least three other stray bullets went through the walls and rooms of an adjacent apartment house.
There were conflicting reports whether Mi’Chance had or drew a gun before he was shot. The gun that the police later said Mi’Chance had was never fired. There was no evidence that Mi’Chance or the 15-year-old pointed a weapon at anyone.
An administrative review of the shooting ended in September 2017 with nineteen (19) “observations” of tactical and supervisory errors that occurred during this operation. An inquest in October of 2017 resulted in a mixed verdict. Five of the six inquest jurors indicated they were unsure if the officer who had fired the fatal shot actually saw a firearm in Mi’Chance’s hands.
MHB and Pat Bosmans represent the Estate of Mi’Chance and his mother, Alexis Dunlap. Mi’Chance’s father, Frank Gittens, is separately represented by James Bible of the Bible Law Group in Bellevue.
Tiffany M. Cartwright, Tim Ford