Arlington to pay $1.5M to woman shot by police 5 times

Police had found the then-17-year-old in the street, distraught and talking about harming herself.

By Asia Fields / The Seattle Times

The city of Arlington will pay $1.55 million to a woman who, at age 17, was shot multiple times by police officers responding two years ago to reports that she was in distress.

The settlement, agreed to last week, stems from a federal civil-rights lawsuit filed on Nina Semone Robinson’s behalf in February. It alleged officers Peter J. Barrett and Justin C. Olson used excessive force and “radically escalated the severity of the crisis” after finding Robinson in the middle of a street in February 2017, distraught and talking about harming herself.

After Robinson locked herself in a car and produced a pocketknife, both her attorneys and those for the city agree that officers broke a car window and used a Taser twice on Robinson before firing nine rounds at her, with five striking her. Robinson was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she underwent surgery and was placed in the intensive-care unit.

Attorneys for Robinson and the officers disagree on whether Robinson was moving away or toward police when she was shot, and whether she was still holding the knife. Under the settlement, the city does not admit to wrongdoing.

“Ms. Robinson is a very sympathetic young lady,” said the city’s attorney Richard Jolly. “While we were confident the facts would demonstrate that officers did nothing wrong, there’s always both expense and risk involved in going to trial.”

Robinson’s attorneys said their client wanted to put the case behind her, but they hope the department will improve how officers respond to people in crisis, particularly teenagers.

“They’re (the officers) armed with knives, they’re armed with guns, they’re armed with mace and Tasers. And they’re afraid of a 17-year-old girl with a little pocketknife?” said one of Robinson’s attorneys, Braden Pence. “I don’t think this is really justice. I don’t know that the police are coming away from this with an understanding that they made a mistake here.”

An independent investigation by the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team (SMART) found the officers’ use of force justified. Their attorneys rejected the lawsuit’s claim that the officers had not been trained on the department’s crisis-intervention policy, which suggests a calm, nonthreatening and nonaggressive approach to people who pose a threat to themselves.

Officers found Robinson sobbing in the middle of a busy street after a fight with her boyfriend.

Robinson walked to her car parked 100 feet away and locked herself in. She held a pocketknife and made threatening gestures at herself and the officers and told them to leave her alone, according to court documents filed by her lawyers. They argued that officers then escalated their response by giving her conflicting orders — which officers denied — and by breaking a window of the car.

Robinson’s attorneys said officers pulled her, still holding the knife, out of the car by her hair. But they said she was walking away, no longer holding the knife, when officers shot her. The officers’ attorneys said Robinson got out of the car and was moving toward an officer while holding the knife.

The city’s attorneys have also pointed to Robinson’s guilty plea to assault in the fourth degree in connection to the case, which Pence said is an unfair attempt to discredit her. The plea was an Alford plea, allowing her to maintain her innocence while acknowledging a jury would likely find her guilty of the charges of assaulting an officer. Pence said he tried to discourage Robinson from the plea, but she didn’t want to face the stress and risk of a trial.

“The city turned around and gave her a million-and-a-half dollars,” Pence said. “If they thought their case was so strong, why didn’t they want to go to trial?”

Pence said Robinson no longer felt safe in Arlington and moved out of the city.

Seattle Times staff reporter Mike Carter contributed to this report.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Driver arrested in fatal crash on Highway 522 in Maltby

The driver reportedly rear-ended Jeffrey Nissen as he slowed down for traffic. Nissen, 28, was ejected and died at the scene.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
3 charged with armed home invasion in Mountlake Terrace

Elan Lockett, Rodney Smith and Tyler Taylor were accused of holding a family at gunpoint and stealing their valuables in January.

PAWS Veterinarian Bethany Groves in the new surgery room at the newest PAWS location on Saturday, April 20, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Snohomish hospital makes ‘massive difference’ for wild animals

Lynnwood’s Progressive Animal Welfare Society will soon move animals to its state of the art, 25-acre facility.

Traffic builds up at the intersection of 152nd St NE and 51st Ave S on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Here’s your chance to weigh in on how Marysville will look in 20 years

Marysville is updating its comprehensive plan and wants the public to weigh in on road project priorities.

Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyko Matsumoto-Wright on Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With light rail coming soon, Mountlake Terrace’s moment is nearly here

The anticipated arrival of the northern Link expansion is another sign of a rapidly changing city.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
1 dead in motorcycle crash on Highway 522 in Maltby

Authorities didn’t have any immediate details about the crash that fully blocked the highway Friday afternoon.

Photographs in the 2024 Annual Black and White Photography Contest on display at the Schack Art Center on Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Black and white photos aren’t old school for teens at Schack Art Center

The photography contest, in its 29th year, had over 170 entries. See it at the Schack in Everett through May 5.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett mom charged with first-degree murder in death of son, 4

On Friday, prosecutors charged Janet Garcia, 27, three weeks after Ariel Garcia went missing from an Everett apartment.

Dr. Mary Templeton (Photo provided by Lake Stevens School District)
Lake Stevens selects new school superintendent

Mary Templeton, who holds the top job in the Washougal School District, will take over from Ken Collins this summer.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.