EVERETT — The daughter of a man whose legs were amputated after being struck by a patrol car doesn’t believe the Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy who hit her father should be allowed to work as a police officer again.
The crash devastated her family, and her dad, Tom Gillette, is in pain every day, the woman said Monday. The family isn’t out for revenge. They aren’t even concerned if John Sadro serves time in jail, she said.
“We’re all human. We all make mistakes,” the woman said. “We don’t care about jail time. We don’t think he should be a sheriff anymore.”
Sadro was sentenced Monday to 30 days of work release at the Skagit County Jail and 30 days on electronic home monitoring. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss also ordered Sadro to do 240 hours of community service. Sadro will be on probation for two years. He is expected to lose his driver’s license for a month.
The judge said if possible as part of Sadro’s community service he wants the deputy to speak to other law enforcement officers about the April 17, 2015, crash.
Sadro was driving a witness to the courthouse for an ongoing trial. He was speeding and ran a stop sign at 23rd Street and Rockefeller Avenue. His patrol car was broadsided by another vehicle. The impact sent his car spinning into the intersection.
Sadro’s car struck a parked pickup truck. Gillette was standing at the corner of the truck, unloading some sawhorses. The Darrington-area man was pinned between the two vehicles and Gillette’s legs later had to be amputated. He suffered other injuries, including a ruptured spleen and spinal fractures. He was hospitalized for two months and has undergone at least a dozen surgeries.
Skagit County Prosecutor Richard Weyrich charged Sadro with vehicular assault, a felony. His office handled the case to avoid a potential conflict of interest.
In November, Gillette and his wife settled a claim with Snohomish County for $14.3 million. The county’s insurance covered the settlement except for a $2 million deductible.
Weyrich agreed last month to let Sadro plead guilty to reckless driving and reckless endangerment, gross misdemeanors. A felony conviction would have ended Sadro’s law enforcement career. Weyrich said Monday Sadro’s future employment was not discussed during plea negotiations.
Weiss explained to Gillette’s daughter that he couldn’t impose any employment sanctions. The judge questioned the woman at some length to get a sense of what her family wanted to see happen.
Her family was upset when the charge was reduced to misdemeanors, as it meant that Sadro possibly could keep his job, the woman said. Weiss asked if the family would like Sadro to speak to other law enforcement officers about his experience.
“I think it would be a good idea,” she said, adding that they still wanted him to be held accountable for his actions.
Sadro cried Monday as he explained how he hopes to speak with Gillette or write him to apologize.
His client is hopeful that he can continue working for the sheriff’s office, Seattle defense attorney David Allen said Monday.
The deputy returned to patrol about a month after the crash. When charges were filed a year later, he was placed on desk duty pending the outcome of the criminal case. He has been working at the south precinct in Mill Creek.
No decision has been made about his future with the sheriff’s office, spokeswoman Shari Ireton said Monday. His employment status is pending an internal investigation. That investigation has been on hold until the criminal case was resolved.
“It could be at least a week or longer before we have an answer,” Ireton said.
Sadro was hired in 2006 after serving 22 years with the U.S. Navy. Allen provided Weiss a packet of letters from fellow sheriff’s deputies and other personnel who offered their support for the deputy. Many wrote about Sadro’s obvious remorse and contrition, and they also said they’d never seen him drive recklessly while on the job.
“I can tell you that after I heard of this incident taking place and the parameters they occurred in, the first thing I thought of was John was trying to please everybody and get a task done to make sure everything went smoothly …,” deputy Ryan Boyer wrote. “I would never had thought John would have purposely violated the law just because he is a Sheriff’s Deputy, but because he was trying to do too much. John works 110% all the time.”
Master Patrol Deputy Bryson McGee wrote that the crash sparked conversations among deputies and was part of the motivation for the office’s new program to reduce accidents.
“I know that this single incident has changed the way SCSO does business,” McGee wrote.
Sadro is willing to tell his story, he added. “The idea did not gain traction with the administration, but the fact that John was willing to speak about his incident with the intent of changing behaviors and trying to prevent future tragedies speaks to his character,” McGee wrote.
In 2015, sheriff’s deputies were involved in 11 on-duty crashes that resulted in significant injuries, according to a press release.
The sheriff’s office implemented a national program, Below 100, to reduce crashes. It eliminated unauthorized pursuits, adopted a driving review board, and deputies were required to watch a presentation by a mother whose two daughters were killed by a speeding Illinois State trooper. The office also installed a telematics system in every patrol car to monitor deputies’ driving behaviors.
By the end of last year, the sheriff’s office reported a 32 percent decrease in major injury crashes and a 38 percent drop in pursuits.
His client feels he can help deputies even more, Allen said.
Nothing will restore Gillette’s health, Weiss said. The defendant, however, could benefit the public by speaking to other police officers about the dangers of bad driving.
Sadro is expected to report to the Skagit County Jail sometime this summer, when the new jail opens up.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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