• Sat. Apr 1st, 2023


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City in Washington Reaches $7.5 Million Settlement in Fatal Police Shooting

The city of Redmond, Wash., has reached a $7.5 million settlement with the family of a woman who was fatally shot in her apartment building in September 2020 by a police officer who had responded after she called 911 for help.

The City Council in Redmond, a city of about 73,000 people across Lake Washington from Seattle, voted to approve the settlement at a special meeting on Tuesday, according to the Police Department and a lawyer for the victim, Andrea Thomas Churna.

The lawyer, Kim Zak, said that the settlement agreement, which was reached as the family was preparing to file a lawsuit, showed that the Police Department made errors in how it handled Ms. Churna’s call.

Ms. Churna, 39, called 911 from her apartment on the night of Sept. 20, 2020, and told emergency dispatchers that she thought someone was trying to kill her, according to an audio recording provided by Ms. Zak. “She was worried that a stalker was trying to get her because she had had a bad experience with an ex-boyfriend before, and that’s what she was afraid of,” said Ms. Zak.

One of the responding officers saw Ms. Churna scaling a balcony and told the other officers at the scene that she may be having a mental health issue, according to a December 2021 investigation by The Seattle Times. The officer asked Ms. Churna if she had access to a firearm and she said she did and retrieved it, The Times reported.

She was unarmed and lying face down on the floor in the hallway outside her apartment when Officer Daniel Mendoza shot her six times, Ms. Zak said.

Investigators later found Ms. Churna’s handgun on the apartment patio, jammed and inoperable, The Times reported. Officer Mendoza is still employed by the Police Department.

Chief Darrell Lowe of the Redmond police said in a statement on Wednesday that Ms. Churna was unarmed when she was shot and that the police had made an error in the news release issued the day after she was killed. The original statement said that she had “confronted officers with a handgun” and that “multiple shots were fired.”

“While Churna was armed with a handgun earlier in the encounter with Redmond officers, when she was shot and killed in the hallway just outside of her apartment Churna was unarmed,” said Chief Lowe, who apologized to Ms. Churna’s family.

Chief Lowe said he could not provide more details about the department’s own investigation of the shooting until a King County inquest had concluded.

“While no amount of money will bring Ms. Churna back, this settlement closes a painful chapter,” Chief Lowe said. “I again offer my sympathies to Ms. Churna’s family and loved ones. It is a tragedy that this ended with a loss of life.”

The settlement will be divided among Ms. Churna’s estate, her son and her parents, Mike and Maggie Thomas.

Ms. Zak said it had been important to the family that the Police Department correct its initial statement about the case “because she has an 8-year-old son who is going to grow-up.”

“If he types his mother’s name into the internet,” she said, “it’s important that he knows that his mom did not have a gun on her and point it at officers when they shot her.”

The case was referred to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which recommended it for an inquest. Ms. Zak said that an inquest could take years to complete and that the family hoped the prosecutor’s office would consider filing criminal charges before then.

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