The family of an Everett nurse killed by a fugitive trying to outrun Bothell police officers has settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $3 million.
The case was scheduled to go to trial in King County in March. A settlement with the city of Bothell was reached Thursday morning, the family’s attorney Robert Gellatly said.
“We’re gratified the police department has made changes to its pursuit policies,” he said. “They’ve given training to officers so hopefully this type of tragedy won’t happen again.”
Rachael Kamin, 40, was driving home along Pacific Avenue on Mother’s Day 2013 after her shift at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.
Bothell police officer Mark Atterbury was chasing a convicted felon down Evergreen Way at speeds reaching 90 mph. The fugitive, Joseph Strange, ran a red light and plowed into Kamin’s Honda CRV. She suffered fatal head injuries and died two days after the wreck.
She left behind a husband and two teenage sons.
The lawsuit alleged that Atterbury was reckless and negligent when he chased the truck for miles.
The first leg of the pursuit began in Bothell after Atterbury saw a Ford pickup truck pull into a hotel parking lot. The license plates on the truck were stolen. Atterbury tried to stop Strange and chased after him when he failed to pull over. The officer’s sergeant called off the pursuit after a couple of minutes.
Atterbury and another officer cut the emergency lights and sirens on their patrol cars but followed Strange off of the freeway.
He pulled into a gas station, hit a parked car and then backed into Atterbury’s car as he tried to get away. The chase picked up again and headed north on I-5. They raced into downtown Everett on Evergreen Way. Kamin was pulling into the intersection when Strange smashed into her car.
An internal investigation found that the chase violated the police department’s pursuit policy. Bothell Police Chief Carol Cummings concluded that Atterbury shouldn’t have chased after the pickup truck based solely on the stolen license plates. She also found that Atterbury should have called off the pursuit about two miles from the crash site. The danger to the public outweighed the need to stop the suspect, Cummings concluded.
Atterbury was suspended for a day.
The police department has adopted stricter pursuit policies. The changes were in the works before the crash. Officers underwent training about a month after Kamin was killed.
Gellatly on Thursday pointed to part of the training that encourages officers to ask, “Am I chasing them because they are dangerous or are they dangerous because I am chasing them?”
Atterbury never had grounds to chase Strange, let alone pursue him for miles, Gellatly said.
After the internal investigation Cummings maintained that Strange was to blame for Kamin’s death. “I want to clearly state that the cause of this tragedy rests squarely on the shoulders of the suspect,” she wrote at the time.
The city reiterated that message Thursday.
“It was a terrible tragedy, and the city feels for the family involved,” Bothell officials wrote in a statement. “Bothell police were doing their best to capture a fleeing criminal and enforce the law. The criminal who caused the woman’s death is serving 39 years in prison for second- degree murder.”
Strange was named in the lawsuit but failed to answer the complaint. Lawyers can purse a default judgment against him. He is locked up at Clallam Bay Corrections Center.
Prosecutors charged Strange with first-degree murder, saying he showed “extreme indifference to human life.” His attorney argued that Strange was being held to a different standard than the police officers who pursued him under dangerous conditions.
Eleven jurors were ready to convict Strange of first-degree murder. One juror wasn’t convinced, and Strange was found guilty of second-degree murder.
The Kamin family is relieved not to have to endure another trial, Gellatly said Thursday.