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

More in Local News

Crews will reduce lanes and eventually close northbound Interstate 5 between Everett and Marysville this week to work on a bridge overpass girder. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Overnight lane closures, I-5 detour set between Everett, Marysville

Crews need to replace a girder on the 12th Street NE bridge that was damaged by an overheight load in September 2021.

Mike Rosen
Businessman Mike Rosen announces campaign for mayor of Edmonds

Rosen, a city planning board member, is backed by five former Edmonds mayors. It’s unclear if incumbent Mike Nelson will run again.

FILE - A Boeing 747-8, Boeing's new passenger plane, takes its first flight, Sunday, March 20, 2011, at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. After more than half a century, Boeing is rolling its last 747 out of a Washington state factory on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Boeing’s last 747 to roll off the Everett assembly line

The Queen of the Skies was dethroned by smaller, more fuel-efficient jets. The last 747s were built for a cargo carrier.

PUD workers install new transformers along 132nd Street on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Electric vehicles spur big forecast jump for PUD demand

Not long ago, the Snohomish County PUD projected 50,000 electric cars registered in the county by 2040. Now it expects up to 660,000.

Traffic moves northbound on I-5 through Everett on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Grinding work still needed for I-5 through Everett

Construction crews need warmer temps for the work to remove what a reader described as “mini raised speed bumps.”

After a day of learning to fight fires, Snohomish firefighter recruit Chau Nguyen flakes a hose as other recruits load the hoses onto a fire truck April 19, 2018, at the training facility on S. Machias Rd. in Snohomish. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)
Lawsuit: Everett firefighter sexually harassed numerous recruits

Chau Nguyen resigned earlier this year, long after the first complaint about his behavior at the county’s fire training academy.

People work on the roof of the Stilly Valley Senior Center on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Seniors evacuated from Stilly Valley Center housing due to roof damage

Residents said water damage issues began years ago. Mid-winter repairs forced them into hotels.

FILE - In this photo taken Oct. 2, 2018, semi-automatic rifles fill a wall at a gun shop in Lynnwood, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee is joining state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to propose limits to magazine capacity and a ban on the sale of assault weapons. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Trade in an unloaded gun for a loaded gift card in Mukilteo, Everett

Mukiteo’s Gun Buyback is Saturday. Everett has $25,000 to give out at its exchange Dec. 17.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Sauk-Suiattle Tribe alleges state unfairly charges online sales tax

Tribal members on the reservation are charged state taxes despite a federal exemption. The tribe says it’s a sovereignty issue.

Most Read