Judge orders Pierce County ME to testify in death of Puyallup teen

a judge says -- Pierce County's Medical Examiner must answer a family's questions -- regarding the death of a Puyallup teenager.

A judge has ordered Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark to testify under oath in the 2017 death of a Puyallup teenager.

Jordon Gish, 16, died when he fell from a Puyallup bridge while he was goofing around with a friend in the early morning hours of July 6, 2017. Clark insisted the death was a suicide even though police investigators disagreed.

“We believe it was more likely an accidental death,” Puyallup police Capt. Ryan Portmann told KIRO 7 in an interview in March. Gish’s family agreed, saying the teenager fell to his death trying to jump from one bridge to another where side-by-side spans cross the Puyallup River on Meridian Street.

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On Friday, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Michael Schwartz said Clark must submit a deposition under oath to attorneys hired by the Gish family to have the death certificate changed.

“I just hope we get the answers that we’re looking for and finally hear what we need to hear,” said Gish’s father, Michael Gish.

Michael Gish said he tried repeatedly to talk to Clark after his son’s death to ask him to change the death certificate, but Clark would never meet with him or take his calls. His attorney, Joan Mell, said only the court can compel Clark to explain his decision to call the teen's death intentional.

“There has to be an opportunity for Michael Gish to cross-examine and ascertain what Clark did, whether or not he was acting honestly,” Mell told the court.

Schwartz granted the motion to depose Clark and denied a motion filed by Pierce County attorneys to dismiss the Gish family claim.

The Gishes are one of three families who have questioned Clark's findings after the death of a loved one. Three employees of the medical examiner's office have also filed complaints against Clark with the county, saying his decisions in some death investigations are questionable, even shoddy. He also faces three complaints filed with the Washington Medical Commission.