King County pays $2.5M to family of man killed by deputies

KING COUNTY, Wash. — King County has agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a claim by the family of man who was shot and killed by deputies after stealing a pickup truck and a pet poodle, according to the family’s attorney.

The November 2019 incident in which Anthony Chilcott died was sharply criticized by investigators and resulted in the firing of an involved deputy.

In a rare move, attorney Tony Russo said the claim filed against the county by Chilcott’s mother and sister, Monica Crotty and Amanda Castro, was resolved before a lawsuit was filed and involved a meeting with interim Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall, among others, The Seattle Times reported.

Russo said they apologized to the family and that the sheriff’s office promised to implement reforms recommended in a review of Chilcott’s shooting. The reforms involve limits on the use of plainclothes officers and focus on de-escalation methods and techniques that an internal investigation found were lacking or ignored by deputies when Chilcott was killed.

“Your decision to participate in utmost good faith in an early resolution of the family’s claim that culminated in today’s settlement should help all of us turn the page on this unnecessary and tragic loss of life,” Russo wrote in a Thursday email to the county.

The Chilcott settlement is the latest in police use-of-force, wrongful death and abuse claims and lawsuits settled by agencies or handed down by juries in Washington state since January 2021, totaling more than $38.6 million in payouts, according to data compiled by The Seattle Times.

Russo said Crotty, Chilcott’s mother, was grateful for the sheriff’s willingness to meet and her promise to address reforms. Messages left with the family by the newspaper were not immediately returned.

Cole-Tindall did not immediately respond Friday to a message from the paper seeking comment.

Chilcott, 36, stole a souped-up Ford Raptor pickup truck from a gas station in Black Diamond on Nov. 22, 2019. Inside the truck was a poodle named Monkey — which elevated interest in the theft.

Several days later Chilcott was spotted by police roaring around Black Diamond back roads in the truck. After a brief chase with state patrol troopers — called off by a supervisor — two plainclothes deputies, George Alvarez and Josh Lerum, driving an unmarked SUV, rammed Chilcott at an intersection, pushing it onto some boulders, where it high-centered and disabled.

According to an investigation done by the Seattle Police Department’s Force Investigation Team, the detectives then used a hammer and their handguns to break out glass in the truck as Chilcott, who was unarmed, tried unsuccessfully to drive away. Each of them shot the Chilcott in the head, claiming he was trying to drive away and they feared for their lives.

An internal investigation, overseen by Cole-Tindall, undersheriff at the time, found the deputies violated policy, engaged in questionable tactics and needlessly escalated the situation.

While then-Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht found the shooting justified, she fired Alvarez, who was involved in four previous shootings. He has appealed that decision.