By Eric Stevick Herald Writer
EVERETT — Gene Dell stood along Rucker Avenue Thursday afternoon thinking about a nurse he grew to love over the four years he’s been receiving kidney dialysis.
The din of passing cars and road construction at the downtown intersection of Rucker and Pacific avenues gave no hint of the horrific crash that killed his friend there late Sunday night.
Rachael Kamin, 40, was on her way home from work at the south campus of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett when her Honda CRV was struck by a stolen full-size pickup truck. An initial police report indicates the impact catapulted her vehicle into the air before it landed and slid on its side a distance of about a half block, a Snohomish County deputy prosecutor said Thursday. She sustained massive head trauma and could not be saved.
Friends and co-workers from her previous job at the Puget Sound Kidney Center on Thursday walked to the crash scene to place flowers beneath a tree in her memory.
Dell joined the gathering.
“She was a very special woman,” he said “I couldn’t begin to explain how awesome she was. I know how devoted she was to her kids and to her patients.”
Dell has been a regular at the kidney center and has been known for bringing chocolates to the staff. He always saved his best treats for Kamin.
The Silver Lake man, 69, remembers the day he passed out during treatment.
“When I came to, I was surrounded by beautiful women,” he recalled. “Rachael was at my feet. She was a tiny woman and she had my feet over her, pumping blood to my head. As far as I’m concerned she saved me.”
A few blocks away from the crash scene, the convicted car thief accused of causing the crash faced a judge Thursday who ordered his bail set at $2 million.
Police and prosecutors are investigating Joseph D. Strange, 33, for a potential first-degree murder charge for his actions during a high-speed pursuit that began in Bothell, more than 20 miles away.
Under Washington law, a person can be charged with first-degree murder if he or she causes a death “under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life.”
Deputy prosecutor Tobin Darrow, who routinely handles vehicular homicides, said a first-degree murder allegation is unusual in car crashes, but he believes there are several examples of extreme indifference in this case.
The suspect allegedly hit a car in a convenience store parking lot off the I-5 exit off 164th Street SE before backing into a Bothell patrol car and taking off.
“I believed the driver was trying to push me out of the way so he could escape and was intentionally assaulting me to escape,” a Bothell officer wrote in a police report.
Police also allege the pickup driver nearly hit a pedestrian on Evergreen Way and reached speeds in excess of 90 mph on Rucker Avenue.
“It’s an entire course of conduct from Bothell to Everett,” Darrow said. “It’s an ongoing mindset.”
It figured into the prosecutor’s pitch on Thursday to seek a doubling of Strange’s bail, which already was set at $1 million.
“I consider him an extreme flight risk and a dangerous individual,” Darrow said. “I’m also taking into account his previous criminal history of 15 felony convictions.”
Bothell police began pursuing the Ford F350 pickup truck after spotting it in a hotel parking lot Sunday night. There has been a rash of thefts involving older model Ford F-250 and F-350 pickups in recent months. The truck had earlier been reported stolen from Lake Stevens.
Strange already was a suspect in the recent spike in truck thefts and the task force will review each case to determine if he could have been involved, said Sgt. Jason Longoria, a Washington State Patrol trooper who heads the Snohomish County Auto Theft Task Force.
Strange has a long history of stealing cars and trying to outrun police.
In 2002, when a Lynnwood police sergeant ordered him to drop to his knees during an interrupted car prowl, Strange jumped into a stolen car and drove at the officer, missing him by less than a foot, before leading police on a high-speed chase onto I-5. At one point, he backed the car toward officers whose weapons were drawn.
A passenger in the car that day told police that she begged him to stop the car after he nearly hit the officer, but he told her he didn’t want to go to jail that night, court papers said.
Along Rucker Thursday, Kamin’s former co-workers shared memories of their friend — a wife and mother of two sons, 15 and 13.
Deb Camara of Everett said Kamin took her in for more than a year when she needed surgeries for a spinal cord injury.
“Rachael has been there every step of the way, for every surgery,” she said. “She and her husband and her boys treated me like I was part of their family. She walked with me when I couldn’t walk. She was so much like a sister to me.”
Samantha VanDusen said Kamin was a dedicated nurse who treated all her patients well, even the occasional combative ones.
“You know the type of people who are like saints?” she said. “That was Rachael.”
As Everett police continue their criminal investigation of the crash, Bothell police are planning an internal review of the pursuit.
That’s standard procedure to determine if department policies were followed after an officer uses force or engages in a pursuit, Bothell police Sgt. Ken Seuberlich said Thursday.
The timeline for such an internal review typically depends on the status of the criminal case, he said.
Among other things, the Bothell Police Department pursuit policy states a pursuit shall be terminated when “the level of danger created by the pursuit outweighs the necessity for immediate apprehension.”
The philosophy behind Bothell’s pursuit policy includes a statement that: “The ultimate decision to initiate a pursuit must be balanced against the greater concern for the safety of the community and the public safety employees.”
In this instance, the Bothell officer who was chasing the stolen pickup actually stopped the active pursuit after encountering traffic along I-5. The officer kept the truck in sight and followed it off the freeway and into the convenience store parking lot. That’s where the truck driver slammed into a still unidentified motorist and then rammed the patrol car trying to leave the scene, according to police reports.
The active chase resumed and continued into Everett, a city where policy discourages police from engaging in high-speed pursuits.
Everett police on Thursday still were hoping to talk with the driver of the car that was hit in the convenience store parking lot near Martha Lake several minutes before the fatal crash in north Everett.
Rikki King contributed to this story.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, firstname.lastname@example.org
Route of chase that ended in woman’s death:
View May 12 pursuit and fatal crash in a larger map
Pickup involved in fatal crash: Police seek witnesses in a second collision involving the stolen pickup truck, shown in the video below.