Vehicular homicide charge warranted, police say

LAKE STEVENS — A Lake Stevens man allegedly was on methamphetamine and driving a stolen car April 11 when he tried to outrun police and crashed into a house, killing his passenger.

Police now are recommending Rodrique Johnstone, 42, be charged with vehicular homicide and attempting to elude police.

The Snohomish County sheriff’s collision detectives took over the investigation for Lake Stevens police, who were involved in the pursuit. The sheriff’s detectives sent the case to Snohomish County prosecutors for review on Oct. 16.

Johnstone also was arrested in August for reckless driving in Everett. He has been in and out of jail in the months since, court records show.

The chase was one of at least four police pursuits in Snohomish County that ended in a death this year. Lake Stevens police plan to review their pursuit to determine whether department policies were followed, interim police chief Dan Lorentzen said.

“We plan a review whenever there’s something of this magnitude,” the chief said this week. “We will make sure our guidelines were followed.”

About 3:20 a.m. April 11, a Lake Stevens officer was northbound on Highway 9 when he saw a southbound Honda Civic, according to court records. A license-plate check said the Honda’s owner had a suspended license.

The officer turned to follow the car. The driver then ran a red light and turned eastbound on Highway 92. The officer attempted to pull the car over, and the driver took off on 99th Avenue NE. The Honda reached speeds of more than 70 mph in a 25 mph zone. The driver took a curve too fast, and the car went into a ditch and then into a house.

The passenger, Nicholas R. Peterson, 26, of Lake Stevens, died at the scene. He had not been wearing a seat belt. No one in the house was hurt, but one man was thrown from the couch inside. The house was heavily damaged.

The driver also was injured. He was taken to a local hospital and then to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Police allegedly found drug paraphernalia, shaved keys and a stolen license plate in the car.

The car itself had been stolen from the suspect’s former employer, the documents show. A blood test reportedly showed methamphetamine in the driver’s blood at the time of the crash. His license also was suspended at the time. A state database on Wednesday showed the man still does not have a valid driver’s license in Washington.

On Aug. 10, a Washington State Patrol trooper was driving down an Everett city street when he reportedly saw the same driver run a red light, speed off and narrowly miss some pedestrians. The man then parked at a restaurant and tried to hide from the trooper behind parked cars.

He was arrested for investigation of reckless driving, obstruction and driving with a suspended license, according to the police reports.

In recent weeks, the sheriff’s detectives had been looking for Johnstone at several addresses in Lake Stevens and Granite Falls. As of Oct. 16, he had a warrant out for his arrest.

Johnstone was listed Wednesday as being behind bars at the Snohomish County Jail. He has no known felony history in Washington.

He has not been charged in the fatal Lake Stevens crash.

Police pursuits in Washington have been drawing increased scrutiny in recent years due to a number of high-profile deaths and expensive lawsuits. Many police departments have changed policies to restrict the circumstances under which officers can pursue.

A fatal pursuit from Bothell to Everett on May 12 and another from Lynnwood to Mountlake Terrace on May 24 remain under internal review at those police departments. The driver who fled from Bothell police and allegedly struck and killed a nurse in Everett is awaiting a murder trial. The driver in the Lynnwood chase also struck and killed someone else. That driver was convicted of murder and sentenced this summer to 22 years in prison. The Lynnwood crash led to a pending $1.2 million claim against the city for damages on behalf of the man who was killed.

On Oct. 21, a reportedly drunk driver with a history of DUI convictions was fleeing from two Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies along U.S. 2 when he crossed the center line and struck another vehicle. The fleeing driver died at the scene. A multi-agency county-wide team of detectives was called out to investigate the U.S. 2 crash. Such investigations often take up to a year before prosecutors determine whether the force was justified.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449, rking@heraldnet.com.

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