Now the family of Daniel Covarrubias, shot dead by Lakewood Police when officers thought the cell phone he was holding was a gun, is suing the Lakewood Police Department (LPD).
According to the April 13, 2018 Seattle Times story by Mike Carter, the federal suit claims “Covarrubias fell victim to the same aggressive police tactics that resulted in a $15.3 million civil-rights verdict against Lakewood police.”
“One of the largest punitive awards ever in Washington State for police use-of-force and wrongful death,” (Seattle Times, May 27, 2015) found in favor of the family of Leonard Thomas who was killed by a Lakewood Police sniper – a member of the Pierce County Metro SWAT team – during a May 2013 standoff in Fife.
Two years later, April 21, 2015, Covarrubias would suffer a similar fate.
No doubt again – as with Thomas, so now with Covarrubias – there will be those who make light of the whole matter, questioning whether these so-called wrongful deaths are nothing more than “money grabbling lawyers suing the deep pocket police department or city for civil and punitive damages.”
There are, however, one would think, questions of a more serious nature, questions requiring actual thought and reflection – if not confrontation – as to why this is yet another lethal-use-of-deadly-force headline.
But, as far as the public knows, those questions don’t appear to be approaching anywhere near the level of scrutiny they deserve.
Especially by those most responsible to ask them.
In the just-released Lakewood City Council meeting minutes for this past April 2, (p.009) Police Chief Mike Zaro provided an overview of the activities of the Police Department in 2017.
What did the Council ask?
“What can the Council do to help Police (economic development to change neighborhoods, and getting message out)”?
“Would additional funding for community service officers and neighborhood patrol officers assist with neighborhood associations”?
“Would having more Police presence at the Lakewood Chamber” be a good idea?
Animal control of off-leash dogs was discussed with the Chief.
But was there anything – at all – in those minutes concerning questions about control of the Police Department itself?
No there was not.
At least there were some ‘fireworks’ discussed with Zaro at the February 7, 2018 (same packet) meeting of the Public Safety Advisory Committee.
Unfortunately, the ‘fireworks’ concerned moving the discussion of sparklers, etc. from June to March on the PSAC agenda.
Still, Zaro was asked to “address questions regarding the lawsuit.”
But, as to the Public Safety Advisory Committee, “no one had any questions.”
So, there were no answers.
But there needs to be.
Answers to questions like these:
Why has Lakewood been a member – the last 13 years – of Metro Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), “a multi-jurisdictional police task force comprised of several Pierce County municipalities,” all while that agency has been without “an established financial management plan that monitors the allocation of resources per member jurisdiction”?
Why does not Lakewood’s Police Department, or the Lakewood City Council for that matter, demand “fiscal transparency of Metro SWAT” which both admit does not exist?
Why was the LPD in charge of the operation the night Thomas was killed in Fife, a debacle that has placed Lakewood in the crosshairs of “one of the largest punitive awards ever in Washington State for police use-of-force and wrongful death”?
Questions such as these – far more important now that Lakewood will again find itself in federal court – are what 60,665 residents in Lakewood should be asking.
More so than “how to pay off the financial judgment” (p.16).