EVERETT — A new lawsuit calls Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy Art Wallin’s decision to shoot and kill a 24-year-old Edmonds man “outrageous and extreme.”
An earlier lawsuit filed by the family of Nickolas Peters was settled for $1 million.
Britt Jakobsen filed the new tort claim Monday in Snohomish County Superior Court, naming Wallin, Snohomish County and unidentified sheriff’s deputies as defendants. Jakobsen was in the passenger seat three years ago when the deputy shot her boyfriend, Peters, twice through the windshield.
In the claim for damages, Jakobsen alleges she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath of the shooting. She had to seek treatment, resulting in medical expenses, the lawsuit says.
She is represented by Kevin Richardson, of Bradley Johnson Lawyers in Seattle.
The law office did not return phone calls from The Daily Herald seeking comment.
Shortly after 10 p.m. Oct. 23, 2018, Wallin engaged in a brief high-speed chase with Peters east of Lynnwood, with speeds reaching about 100 mph, according to investigative reports. During the chase, deputies reported Peters hit their vehicles with his Ford F-150 as he tried to get away. The other deputy in the chase, Mark Stich, reported he and Wallin may have bumped cars, as well. Pictures show scrapes and dents on the patrol vehicles.
Stich rammed Peters’ pickup truck head-on and pinned it against some brush on Damson Road. Wallin got out of his patrol vehicle and took up a position by the passenger side of Peters’ pickup. When the deputy fired his gun, the lawsuit alleges, he could clearly see Peters in the driver’s seat and see he was unarmed.
The lawsuit mistakenly says Wallin stood on the pickup’s hood. Stich was actually the deputy who got on the hood, as can be seen in video of the encounter.
The complaint also mistakenly says Wallin shot Peters after Jakobsen was pulled out of the pickup. She was still in the passenger seat when he shot Peters.
The lawsuit describes how a sheriff’s deputy pulled Jakobsen out of the truck by her hair. That deputy was now-Sheriff Adam Fortney, a sergeant at the time. The complaint does not refer to him by name.
The shooting was investigated by the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team, a countywide task force of detectives who examine police use of deadly force.
Jakobsen cast doubt about the police version of events at a press conference held a month after the shooting. According to her, she and Peters raised their hands and tried to obey the deputies’ changing commands. Witness reports included in the investigation indicated Peters was not following orders, though there has been debate about whether he posed a threat to the deputies.
After reviewing the SMART investigation, Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell declined to pursue charges against Wallin, citing law at the time requiring proof the deputy acted with malice or evil intent — a high bar to clear.
After an additional administrative review by the sheriff’s office, then-Sheriff Ty Trenary fired Wallin in October 2019 for policy violations related to the pursuit and the shooting.
The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment this week on the new lawsuit, the agency’s usual policy for pending litigation.
There are different standards for determining whether a deputy violated policy or whether a deputy committed a crime.
At the end of 2019, just before Fortney became sheriff, Snohomish County settled a federal lawsuit with Peters’ family for $1 million.
Weeks later, as one of his first acts as sheriff, Fortney reinstated Wallin and exonerated him of his policy violations. In a press conference, Fortney called the previous sheriff’s reasoning for firing the deputy “completely flawed.”
“In my judgment, Deputy Wallin put his life on the line to protect both his partner and his community,” Fortney wrote in a decision letter.
In a statement submitted in the sheriff’s office’s internal review, over six months after the shooting, Wallin said he feared for his and Stich’s lives. According to him, Peters was trying to start his pickup and could have run them over.
An audio recording of the encounter shows the truck’s engine did not start all the way back up when Wallin fired his gun. During a pre-disciplinary hearing, an attorney with the sheriff’s deputy union noted a sound can be heard just before the gunshots. That sound came from the engine, the attorney argued.
As of this week, Wallin was still employed with the sheriff’s office as a K-9 handler.