$1.75 million award for police shooting addressed at Oct. 8 Lynnwood council meeting

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    The scene of the shooting investigation on Highway 99 in January 2017. (Lynnwood Today file photo)

    The Lynnwood City Council began its business meeting Monday night by addressing the $1.75 million insurance payout to the family of a man shot and killed by a Lynnwood City police officer last year.

    Lynnwood City Mayor Nicola Smith said because a claim was never filed against the city, the decision to pay the money was made by the city’s insurance and warranted no action from the city council.

    “It is they (the insurance agencies) who ultimately agreed to and paid the settlement amount and not the City of Lynnwood,” she said.

    Officer Zachary Yates shot Jeremy Dowell, a 36-year-old man with mental health issues as he ran across Highway 99 wielding a knife on Jan. 30, 2017. Seattle attorney Ed Budge, who filed the suit with his partner Erik Heipt, told our online news partner The Seattle Times that it is one of the largest in Washington state involving excessive force by police.

    City Councilmember Shannon Session noted that the lawsuit was unique for the City of Lynnwood, since the decision of a settlement was neither discussed nor approved by the city council.

    City Attorney Rosemary Larson told the council that when the lawsuit was initially presented as a draft complaint, it did not name the City of Lynnwood as a municipal entity.

    “A formal claim never named the city or named the officer or was filed in court,” Larson said. “So, when the draft complaint was received it was turned over to the insurance company.”

    Larson said the city, which pays monthly bills to its insurance risk pool for services, will not have to pay a deductible for the lawsuit. She added she didn’t currently know whether the city’s rates will increase following the settlement.

    Addressing confusion surrounding the insurers’ decision to pay the money without the council’s approval, City Council President Benjamin Goodwin said it was out of the city’s hands.

    “I have a huge concern that this issue is being made to look like the city staff or the administration is either hiding something or not communicating with the council, and that is not the case,” he said. “The information was not being hid from the city council or the public; it was the way that process worked out.”

    Also at the meeting, Mayor Smith presented to the council her biennial budget for 2019-2020. Smith said the budget preserves all current levels of service and adds funding for new services, and is $7 million less than the last two-year budget for 2017-2018.

    “With this budget we are building Lynnwood’s future,” she said, adding that 2018 “is already the busiest year for construction in our recent memory.”

    Smith reflected on the accomplishments of the previous biennium, including creation of a regional fire authority and road improvements including the 36th Avenue West and 196th Street Southwest projects. She also pointed to future projects like the design and initial construction of Sound Transit’s Lynnwood Link light rail project.

    “Stuff just got real, folks,” she said. “There will be loads of work related to permitting and plan review in our near future.”

    In addition, the city council issued three proclamations for the month of October:

    • Declaring October Domestic Violence Awareness Month
    • Declaring Oct. 9 Indigenous Peoples’ Day
    • Declaring October Filipino American History Month

    — Story and photos by Cody Sexton

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