Deputy fired for ‘unjustified’ fatal shooting rehired by new Snohomish County sheriff

EVERETT, Wash. — A former Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy who was fired for a fatal shooting has been rehired by new Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney.

Deputy Art Wallin shot and killed 24-year-old Nickolas Peters on Oct. 23, 2018. He was fired after a report found the shooting was “unjustified.”

Wallin was reinstated as a deputy sheriff K-9 handler with the Snohomish County Sheriff on Jan. 17 – two weeks after the Peters family settled a federal civil rights lawsuit against the county for $1 million.

Background Information on the shooting

In the weeks after the fatal shooting, Peters’ girlfriend, Britt Jacobsen, spoke to KIRO 7 about the night Peters was killed.

Jacobsen was a passenger in the vehicle when she says Peters refused to stop during a traffic stop. A deputy tried the pursuit intervention technique, or PIT maneuver, and eventually two deputies pinned in the truck so it couldn’t move.

Jacobsen says a deputy stood on the hood of the F-150 truck and shined a light in on them. According to the search warrant, another deputy stood on the passenger side.

She said the deputies ordered them to put their hands up and get out of the car. She said she and Peters put up their hands. She said she watched the deputy shoot Peters.

Peters was rushed to Harborview Medical Center, where he died.

Jacobsen, the daughter of a retired Seattle Police Department officer, told KIRO 7 in 2018 that she didn’t understand why a deputy would climb on the hood of the truck, making himself vulnerable.

“(Nikolas) wasn’t a threat, we both weren’t a threat,” Jacobsen said. “I just cannot believe they took him away.”

Report finds shooting was ‘unjustified’

In the fall, a report on the shooting was released and concluded that Wallin used excessive force.

Wallin was fired by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department as a result of the report.

Then-Sheriff Ty Trenary wrote a response to Wallin after the investigation was complete. In it, Trenary noted the inconsistencies and missteps Wallin took that led to his termination.

Trenary wrote, “The use of deadly force is to be done with great reservations and using it here, when the events do not appear to have warranted it, is more than just a regrettable mistake, it is a loss that cannot be undone.”

The Peters family spoke to KIRO 7 following the release of the report and said they knew all along there was no reason the 24-year-old should have been shot to death by Wallin. They Peters family explained that were appreciative of the department’s decision to fire Wallin, but said a thorough investigation and a vindicating report aren’t a time machine.

“It doesn’t change what happened – Nick never gets to come back from this,” said his father, Mike Peters.

The lawsuit and settlement

Even before the final report was issued, the Peters and their attorney, Jeff Campiche, filed a civil rights wrongful death suit in U.S. District Court against Snohomish County and Wallin.

“We need law enforcement that appreciates the value of human life and understands that when our young people commit a crime, they should be arrested and punished but they shouldn’t be killed,” Campiche said at the time.

On Jan. 3, Peters’ family agreed to settle their federal civil rights lawsuit against Snohomish County for $1 million.

“The firing of Deputy Wallin and this 7-figure settlement removes any question regarding the wrongfulness of Deputy Walling’s deadly shooting of the Peters’ son, Nickolas,” the family’s attorney, Jeffery Campiche, said in a news release after the settlement.

Full Jan. 21 statement from Jeffery M. Campiche, attorney for the Peters family:

"The Peters family is disappointed and concerned by Sheriff Fortney’s reinstatement of Deputy Wallin, the deputy who shot and killed their son because his “spidey sense” told him that Nickolas had a gun (he did not). The family’s concern is that Deputy Wallin, has demonstrated a willingness to unnecessarily use deadly force in situations that don’t justify it. Specifically, the Investigative Report stated this: There is no statement, information or evidence to show that Nickolas Peters was known or believed to be armed with a firearm or deadly weapon at the time of the encounter, or that he displayed a weapon or threatened deadly force on the either deputy or his passenger. His vehicle was effectively pinned and disabled.

"Yet, Sheriff Forney’s decision to disregard his own office’s investigation and reinstate Deputy Wallin is a clear statement that the new sheriff intends to protect and enable deputies who use excessive force upon his constituents, whether justified or not.

“Sheriff Forney’s decision to give a gun and badge (and a salary) back to an unstable officer who has demonstrated his willingness use unnecessary deadly force on citizens should be reconsidered.”

Full Jan. 21 statement from new Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney:

"Last Friday, I reinstated Deputy Arthur Wallin to full commissioned status as a Deputy Sheriff K-9 handler with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

"Before I was elected Sheriff, I was well aware of the incident that Deputy Wallin was involved in that led to his termination by the former administration. I believe I speak for many Sheriff’s Office employees that we were shocked when the former administration decided to terminate him even after he was cleared of criminal charges by the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney. After the election, but prior to taking office, I made no promises to Deputy Wallin other than I would give the case a second look. I felt obligated to do so since the facts that I knew at the time of the incident did not seem to warrant termination. I knew full well that after taking office I could learn more information that previously had not been available to me which may lead me to upholding the termination case. I went into the review process with an open mind. The review consisted of reading the entire file, which included both the results of the SMART investigation and the Sheriff’s Office internal investigation by the Office of Professional Accountability. The file contained additional information that I did not have prior to taking office. After carefully reviewing the information, I found the termination of Deputy Wallin was not justified and that his actions were reasonable under the circumstances the suspect chose to put him in that night:

"1. Deputy Wallin’s pursuit of the suspect was within policy because the suspect was under the influence of alcohol or drugs and posed a danger to other drivers on the road, and the suspect was using his truck as a weapon (purposefully ramming patrol vehicles) posing a credible threat to responding deputies and the public;

"2. Deputy Wallin’s decision to use deadly force was within policy because he was protecting his partner and the community from an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.

"The bottom line is, Deputy Wallin never should have been terminated in the first place. Deputy sheriffs are expected to make split second decisions in situations which are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving. The incident the former administration terminated him for would fall under this category. Deputy Wallin believed his partner’s life was in danger when he chose to use force. I believe Deputy Wallin’s actions were reasonable under the circumstances in which they occurred. I also believe the SMART investigation supported Deputy Wallin’s version of what took place that night and his decision was appropriate under the circumstances. In my judgment, Deputy Wallin put his life on the line to protect both his partner and his community.

“I understand the difficult job that law enforcement officers, corrections, and support personnel have to go through in their daily duties. I value the work of all Sheriff’s Office employees and I am committed to ensuring that they are always treated fairly by this administration.”

See our previous coverage on the shooting below:

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