Ex-Brier mayor not charged in police officer’s death

BRIER – No charges will be filed in connection with the Sept. 12 death of Brier police officer Eddie Thomas, who collapsed during a struggle at the home of ex-mayor Gary Starks.

An autopsy showed that the officer’s death was attributed to natural causes connected to a congenital heart defect, and there is no evidence that Starks did anything intentional or illegal that day, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Mark Roe said in a letter Wednesday to detectives who investigated the case.

The investigation was thorough and complete and revealed “among many other things, that Eddie Thomas went above and beyond the call of duty the day he died,” Roe wrote.

The 28-year-old officer went alone into Starks’ home after the former mayor’s wife told emergency dispatchers that Starks, a diabetic, needed medical attention.

Shortly after arriving, Thomas called for help and told a dispatcher that he had been confronted by a man with a gun.

When officers arrived, they found Starks in handcuffs and Thomas nearby, unconscious and not breathing. The officer died later at Stevens Hospital in Edmonds.

Roe said the investigation showed that Thomas “died in the midst of selfless devotion” to his department and his duty.

“With what I have learned about him, I bet he’d do it all over again,” Roe wrote. “His death is certainly a tragedy, but not every tragedy is a crime.”

To hold Starks accountable for Thomas’ death, prosecutors would have to prove he intentionally did something to cause the officer’s fatal collapse, the prosecutor wrote.

Instead, the evidence shows that Starks and Thomas both were facing medical emergencies that night.

Starks had dangerously low blood sugar because of his diabetes and was not behaving rationally, Roe said.

Thomas had a malformation of a heart valve, a condition that had sent him to the hospital before.

“While officer Thomas had a heart of a lion that enabled him to enter that house alone because someone needed help, that heart had one valve that wasn’t quite as robust,” the prosecutor wrote.

Roe said given the evidence, prosecutors “could not ethically or honestly try to link officer Thomas’ death to any acts by Mr. Starks.”

The prosecutor said he shared his decision with Thomas’ family and friends earlier this week.

Thomas was the first Brier police officer to die in the line of duty.

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