Friends seek justice in death of motorcyclist near Lake Stevens

On June 27, Anthony Palko, 33, died in a crash with a car. Friends are pushing the sheriff’s office for details.

Jenn Gaffney-Flores and Anthony Palko. (Jenn Gaffney-Flores)

Jenn Gaffney-Flores and Anthony Palko. (Jenn Gaffney-Flores)

EVERETT — Anthony Palko’s motorcycle was his whole world.

In the winter, he’d talked to his high school friend Sam Shipley about wanting to get back on it. The snowy conditions in Verlot off Mountain Loop Highway made riding untenable where he lived.

Last week, Palko, 33, was riding his motorcycle to a friend’s house. He never showed, another friend, Jenn Gaffney-Flores, said.

Around 10 p.m. on June 27, a passenger car crashed into him north of Lake Stevens in the 13600 block of 84th Street NE, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. Palko died at the scene. The driver and passenger in the car, both teenagers, were taken to the hospital.

Palko, Shipley and Gaffney-Flores went to Cascade High School. They still call him by his last name. Gaffney-Flores would go to his house and work on cars with his dad. Her family had an account at the Alfy’s in Silver Lake. The friends would run up the tab.

Jessica Vazquez had known Palko since eighth grade. She said his smile was contagious and “You couldn’t help but feel a sense of happiness around him.”

“From the get-go, you could just tell that he was just one of those people, he would just do anything for you,” Gaffney-Flores said. “He would give the shirt off his back if you didn’t have one.”

Palko and friends drifted apart after high school, but would keep in touch. He was in a happy place and starting to get his life together. He’d just adopted a dog.

“Within the last six months, he was starting to smile, and communicating more regularly,” Shipley said.

“He was living his best life, finally,” added Gaffney-Flores, who’d reconnected with Palko in the last couple years.

Dashcam footage that friends of Anthony Palko believe shows a car driving on the other side of the road moments before hitting and killing Palko on June 27. (Jenn Gaffney-Flores)

Dashcam footage that friends of Anthony Palko believe shows a car driving on the other side of the road moments before hitting and killing Palko on June 27. (Jenn Gaffney-Flores)

Now, the friends are pressing for details about his sudden death. They haven’t gotten many answers from the sheriff’s office, which reported speed may have been a factor in the crash.

Dashcam footage from another vehicle shared with The Daily Herald appears to show the teens driving on the wrong side of the road moments before the crash.

Friends have heard rumors about the crash that worry them. They don’t need an immediate arrest, or even a timeline for the investigation into the crash. They just want to ensure the sheriff’s office continues to look into it.

“We just really want to make sure that we’re a voice for Palko,” Gaffney-Flores said. “Because his voice has been taken from him.”

A Facebook group they created in the wake of his death — Justice for Palko — gained more than 250 members in less than a week. An online fundraiser brought in over $2,300 to help with funeral costs. They’re planning a tribute motorcycle ride in his honor.

They wish they could just grieve the death of their friend, but now feel the need to mobilize to get closure. Gaffney-Flores said she hasn’t been able to cry because she’s just been trying to learn more about the crash.

“It’s really hard to sit still and be quiet,” Gaffney-Flores said. “We’re not going to be quiet at all because that’s not what Anthony would want, honestly. … I’ll grieve when justice is served.”

Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Courtney O’Keefe said Thursday that detectives are “actively investigating” the crash.

Tips can be directed to the sheriff’s office at 425-388-3845.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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