The Kent city employee who police said hit and killed a 73-year-old pedestrian Saturday night blew a .344 on a portable breath test, according to investigators. Drivers with a blood alcohol content at .08 or higher are considered legally impaired in Washington, though officers can give DUI tickets for blood alcohol content levels lower than that or other conditions.
Nicholas Browning Slater, 37, told police he was so drunk he doesn’t remember hitting the man, who died at the scene, according to court documents. Slater was driving a Kent parks department vehicle.
The prosecutor on the case said at Slater’s bail hearing Monday that he has a 2009 DUI conviction. It’s not clear what kind of background screenings Kent officials do for employees driving city-owned vehicles.
Kent Mayor Dana Ralph initially declined to talk, but later sat down with KIRO 7 on Monday night.
"I can't understand why. I can't understand in what mindset you would believe this was OK," said Ralph. "I'm heartbroken. I don't want anyone to believe this is who Kent is because it's just not."
Slater did pass the city's background check.
"You look at the previous three years. So had it been in those three years, we wouldn't have hired him at all," Ralph said.
Ralph said the DUI conviction was nearly 10 years ago, which is why it wasn't flagged during his interview.
"It's the only thing on his record. There was not as much as a speeding ticket or running a stop. Nothing that would give us any indication that this was a pattern," she said. "This is one person, very short term, temporary employee, that made extremely bad decisions but there are hundreds of city employees that get up every single day and do nothing and take care of the city."
Ralph said the suspect hasn't been with the city long; just four months. He mainly worked weekends, opening and closing parks.
The victim got off a Metro bus near the intersection of 108th Avenue Southeast and Southeast 204th Street and was crossing 108th west to east.
Police said Slater, who allegedly told an investigator he’s an alcoholic, disregarded a stop sign before hitting the victim and made no attempts to stop. A witness followed the Kent parks department truck and pulled in front of it to get it to stop. That’s when Slater was identified as the driver, police said.
The 73-year-old victim was identified Monday afternoon by the King County Medical Examiner's Office as Alan Kern. He suffered multiple blunt force injuries.
Investigators were told Slater was drinking before the crash at Sidetrack Eatery & Pub at 10700 S.E. 208th St in Kent. He claimed a truck cut him off, and police could “immediately smell a pungent odor of alcohol emanating from her person and his speech was slow and slurred,” according to court documents.
In addition to the .344, Slater also blew a .321 – roughly an hour and a half after the collision.
Police said Slater's body was shaking as he was going through alcohol withdraw.
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