City of Kent employee faces vehicular homicide charge

Witnesses reportedly saw him drinking prior to the collision. A 73-year-old man was killed.

The city of Kent employee under investigation for vehicular homicide reportedly had been drinking beer at a local bar prior to hitting a pedestrian Saturday evening on the East Hill.

Kent Police arrested Nicholas B. Slater, 37, of SeaTac, a parks maintenance worker, Feb. 23 for investigation of vehicular homicide. Slater was scheduled for a second appearance at the King County Courthouse in Seattle on Feb. 27, when he was expected to be formally charged. He remained Tuesday in the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle with bail set at $150,000.

Alan Kern, 73, of Kent, died at the scene of the collision at the intersection of 108th Avenue Southeast and Southeast 204th Street, after he was reportedly struck by a city of Kent Parks Department Ford F-250 at about 6:08 p.m. Kern had just walked off a Metro bus prior to being hit, according to probable cause documents filed by police with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Witnesses reportedly saw Slater drinking at the Sidetrack Eatery and Pub, 10700 SE 208th St., prior to the collision, according to court documents. Slater told police he had one 24-ounce beer at about 5 p.m. at the bar. He said he left the bar to go lock up the gates at Chestnut Ridge Park, 9901 S. 203rd St., and was heading back to the city’s East Hill maintenance shops.

Kern was crossing 108th Avenue Southeast from the east to west. Slater was driving eastbound on Southeast 204th Street approaching 108th Avenue. Witnesses said Slater disregarded a stop sign to beat southbound traffic and made a right turn on 108th Avenue when he struck Kern and dragged the body southbound.

Slater made no attempt to stop and continued southbound. A witness saw the pickup didn’t stop, followed it and at the intersection of Southeast 208th Street, pulled his truck in front of the suspect vehicle forcing it to stop. Police arrived and took Slater into custody. Police found blood and hair matter under the city truck that Slater was driving.

An officer noted in his report that he could smell a pungent odor of alcohol emanating from Slater and that his speech was slurred and slow. Slater agreed to take a voluntary preliminary breath test that indicated he had been drinking. The officer noted blood alcohol concentration readings of .34 and .32. It is illegal to drive in Washington state with a level of .08 or higher. A level of .40 is potentially fatal.

Slater told police he didn’t know he had hit anyone. He also told officers he was an alcoholic.

Investigators obtained a search warrant to draw a blood sample from Slater and are awaiting the results of toxicology analysis to determine his exact blood alcohol count and whether there were any other substances in his system that may have impacted his sobriety.

An outside agency will review the collision.

“In an effort to ensure full transparency I have asked the Washington State Patrol to conduct a review of our investigation,” said Police Chief Rafael Padilla. “I have full confidence that our investigators conducted a thorough and complete investigation however because this incident involved a city employee, we are taking the additional step of having an independent third-party expert review our work.”

Slater had worked about four months with the city. The city hired Slater in November as a temporary, part-time employee assigned to the Parks Department’s maintenance division.

Mayor Dana Ralph emphasized that the city has no tolerance for such actions by its employees.

“The city has long been committed to a substance-free workplace,” Ralph said in a statement posted Sunday on Facebook. “Our employees are prohibited from using alcohol on duty or performing any city business while under the influence of alcohol. Having violated our substance-abuse policies, the employee will not be returning to work at the city, no matter the outcome of the criminal case.

“I again express my condolences to the friends and family of the pedestrian who died in this tragic incident. They have my deep sympathy for their loss.”

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