• Video shows Pierce County medical examiner discussing controversial decision about teen's death

    By: Kevin McCarty

    Updated:

    KIRO 7 has exclusively obtained portions of a video deposition of Pierce County’s medical examiner undergoing questioning in the death of a Puyallup teenager.

    Jordon Gish, 16, died July 6, 2017, when he jumped from a bridge that crosses the Puyallup river. Police and Gish’s family called his death a tragic accident, but in the deposition Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark compared the fall to someone playing Russian roulette with a loaded gun.

    “I would put jumping off a bridge in the same category as Russian roulette,” Clark testified, “in that a bridge is an instrument that if one jumps off of it, it has a high probability of death.”

    Gish is seen on surveillance video around 3:30 a.m. that day of the 6th with a friend running around empty parking lots and closed businesses near Meridian in Puyallup, setting off fireworks and taking some balloons from an outdoor display. Moments later, the grainy video shows Gish on a pair of bridges crossing the river. The camera didn't capture the moment he jumped, falling to his death.
         
    Gish's father Michael told KIRO 7 in March his son's death was a tragic mistake by a careless teenager, but not suicide. He said it was an accident by an impulsive teenager who made a tragic mistake. 

    “Yes, 100 percent it was an accident,” Gish said.

    Puyallup police investigated and agreed that in the darkness, Gish misjudged the distance to the ground and between the two bridges when he jumped. Investigators even asked Clark to do another review of the evidence they gathered in April of this year, but he refused to change his finding.

    “This is a case where we differed with the medical examiner,” said police Capt. Ryan Portmann. “We believed it was more likely an accidental death.”

    The teenager's family has filed a demand in Pierce County Superior Court but during his deposition for that case Clark said even if Jordon Gish didn't know the bridges were too high, or too far apart, when he jumped, and even if he didn't intend to kill himself that night, he still views the death as a suicide.

    “Jordon voluntarily went off a bridge (and) he either did or did not know what was on the other side,” Clark said in testimony.

    Clark also cited risk factors for Gish including ADHD and problems at home. But there is no evidence the teenager ever talked about taking his own life
    or attempted suicide in the past, according to investigators.
       
    Michael Gish said after the death certificate was signed by Clark, he repeatedly tried to contact him. Clark refused to take his calls saying he didn't have time to speak to all the families that reach out to him after death investigations.

    “It doesn’t really matter whether a family member says, 'Oh, I don’t think he would have killed himself,'” he said in the deposition.

    In addition to the Gish suit, Clark is the subject of a whistleblower complaint by suspended Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Megan Quinn, as well as three complaints filed with the Washington Medical Commission.   

    See our previous coverage of the Pierce County’s Medical Examiner below.

    August 19: Pierce County's prosecuting attorney says subpoenas demanding records from media won't be refiled

    May 14: Employee claims Pierce County Medical Examiner fabricated evidence

    April 11: Family of teen who died in fall from Puyallup bridge suing to have cause of death changed

    March 13: Employees speak out on Pierce County Medical Examiner

    March 12: Family claims Pierce County medical examiner should not have ruled son's death a suicide

    March 8: Attorney representing Pierce County Medical Examiner responds to complaints

    March 7: Independent review unveils concerns on some of Pierce County Medical Examiner’s conclusions

    March 6: Police speak out on how Pierce County medical examiner handled possible homicide case

    March 4: Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark now facing three separate complaints

    March 1: New details on the investigation into Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Tom Clark

    January 24: Whistleblower accuses Pierce County Medical Examiner of shoddy death investigations

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