Young woman shot by police pleads to assault, is spared jail

Arlington police say the 17-year-old drew a knife before they fired. She is in counseling.

EVERETT — A young woman who was shot by Arlington police in 2017 was spared jail time Thursday after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault.

The woman must continue to receive mental health counseling as a condition of her sentence, which included a suspended 364-day jail term.

Her case drew widespread regional interest in the months after the February 2017 gunfire. She was 17, had no criminal record and was attending community college when the confrontation occurred. The Snohomish County branch of the NAACP called for an independent review of the case. The woman is African-American.

The Daily Herald has not named her because she was a juvenile at the time.

She has since moved out of the state and is attending a university, her attorney Pete Mazzone said in Everett District Court.

The defendant was accused of assaulting her boyfriend and the officers before the gunfire. She pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault and unlawful display of a weapon. The plea followed discussions over many months between prosecutors and the defense.

She entered what is known as an Alford plea, saying she did not admit to the facts as alleged, but acknowledged that she could have been convicted based on the evidence. She otherwise could have faced two felony assault charges and a prison sentence of more than two years.

“It’s an attempt to make the best of a bad situation,” Mazzone said.

The case was investigated by the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team, a task force of detectives assigned to investigate police shootings. Those detectives recommended she be charged with two counts of felony assault.

Their case was forwarded to Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe. No charges were filed against the officers. Roe is tasked with determining whether police were justified in using potentially fatal force. As of Thursday, he said he had not yet issued those findings.

Police reportedly found the girl lying in the street and yelling outside the Arlington post office. Witnesses said she talked about wanting to die.

Her boyfriend was standing nearby. His face was bloody. He said she had struck him earlier that night after leaving a party.

An officer reportedly said he could arrest the young woman for disorderly conduct if she didn’t move out of the road. She stood up, walked to a car and locked herself inside, according to police. Officers said they saw her rummaging through the center console. Shortly after, they say she tapped a knife on the window and then held the blade to her throat.

An officer said he drew his gun. He told a sergeant to break the car window and deploy his stun gun. The young woman reportedly lunged at the sergeant through the shattered window while holding the knife.

Police said she then crawled through the window and faced the sergeant. He used his stun gun with no effect, and tried again.

The young woman was standing about 15 feet away when the officers opened fire, according to a police report.

The teen was shot in the chest and lower right side.

The girl’s family shared through a blog a different story of what they believed happened. They said the girl was sad, and was working through an anxiety attack while sitting in her car. They didn’t believe she was dangerous.

Mazzone said he believes police overreacted. He called it a case of excessive force.

“To this day we do not understand why they went to her window and told her to to get out of the car,” Mazzone said.

“This is a 17-year-old girl with a pocket knife who took … five bullets,” he said.

Mazzone said civil litigation is possible.

She was at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for 11 days, Mazzone said. One of the bullets punctured her liver and she has faced an extensive recovery.

Chief criminal deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson said after Thursday’s hearing that it was clear from police and witness accounts that the woman was having mental health issues that day. Prosecutors took into consideration that the defendant sought out mental health counseling and followed through with therapy, he said. They also consulted with the police officers before agreeing to the less serious charges.

“From all accounts she is a bright, articulate, nice kid,” Matheson said.

Both the defense and prosecutor urged Judge Anthony Howard to waive court costs. The woman reportedly faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, and is getting help for severe PTSD, Mazzone said.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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