Man Arrested in Washington State After Detective Made False Statements Will get $225,000 Settlement

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By Calvin S. Nelson

SEATTLE (AP) — King County pays $225,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit introduced by a Black man who was arrested on drug expenses after a veteran detective made false statements to acquire a search warrant, together with misidentifying him in a photograph.

Detective Kathleen Decker, a now-retired 33-year veteran of the King County Sheriff’s Workplace, was on the lookout for a homicide weapon when she requested a Washington state choose for a warrant to go looking the automobile and condominium of Seattle resident Gizachew Wondie in 2018. On the time, federal brokers had been individually trying into Wondie’s potential involvement in promoting medicine.

Wondie was not a suspect within the murder, however Decker’s search warrant utility stated a gun he owned was the identical weapon that had been used to kill a 22-year-old girl just a few months earlier.

In actuality, the gun was solely a possible match and additional testing was required to show it. Additional, Decker, who’s white, falsely claimed {that a} totally different Black man pictured in an Instagram photograph holding a gun was Wondie, and that Wondie had a “propensity” for violence, when he had by no means been accused of a violent crime.

Decker additionally omitted info from her search warrant utility that steered Wondie now not possessed the gun she was on the lookout for. Throughout a federal court docket listening to in regards to the warrant’s validity, she acknowledged a few of her statements had been incorrect or exaggerated, however she stated she didn’t intentionally mislead the choose who issued the warrant.

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The false and incomplete statements later pressured federal prosecutors to drop drug expenses in opposition to Wondie. A federal choose referred to as her statements “reckless conduct, if not intentional acts.”

“Detectives have to be truthful, full, and clear of their testimony to judges reviewing search warrant purposes,” Wondie’s lawyer, Dan Fiorito, stated in an emailed assertion Tuesday. “Incorrectly portraying Mr. Wondie as a violent gang member primarily based on a clumsy cross-racial identification, and exaggerating ballistics proof to tie him to against the law he was not concerned in, was reckless and an entire violation of his rights.”

The King County Sheriff’s Workplace didn’t instantly return an e mail in search of remark. The county didn’t admit legal responsibility as a part of the settlement.

Two days after the choose issued the warrant, Decker had a SWAT crew confront Wondie as he parked his automobile close to Seattle Central Faculty, the place he was learning pc science. The SWAT crew arrested Wondie and located medicine on him.

Investigators then questioned Wondie and discovered he had one other condominium, the place utilizing one other search warrant they discovered 11,000 Xanax capsules, 171 grams of cocaine, a tablet press and different proof of drug dealing.

Wondie’s protection attorneys efficiently argued that with out the false statements used for the primary warrant, authorities wouldn’t have had possible trigger to arrest Wondie or study of the second condominium. U.S. District Decide Richard Jones threw out the proof within the federal case, and prosecutors dropped these expenses.

Decker was the sheriff’s workplace detective of the yr in 2018. The division referred to as her “an outright legend” in a Fb publish marking her 2020 retirement.

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