Case against driver who struck, killed girl at Redmond Town Center returned as 'legally insufficient'

The King County prosecutor’s office has declined from pressing criminal charges against a Kenmore driver who struck a 2-year-old girl in July 2015 at Redmond Town Center (RTC), resulting in the toddler’s death.

Dan Donohoe from county prosecutor Dan Satterberg’s office said the decision came down in late January, noting that there was no evidence of reckless or impaired driving.

Court documents state that the case is being returned because it is “legally insufficient.”

According to the documents, the 25-year-old driver — whose name was redacted from the report because it is considered non-conviction data — was driving his girlfriend’s Volvo sedan in Redmond, intending to pick her up at work. In the documents, a civilian driving behind him noted no negative driving on the Volvo driver’s part. The driver “stopped appropriately at a red light and again at a stop sign and was traveling at or below the speed limit.”

As he approached 164th Avenue Northeast on Northeast 74th Street — the intersection where the accident happened — the driver’s car was traveling 5-10 mph, documents state. The driver was slowing down for the stop sign when the 2-year-old ran out from nearby bushes and into the street. This was about 20 feet from the stop sign and crosswalk area.

“Witnesses did not see any adult tending to the child,” court documents state. “They noted that the child was running fast and the driver did not appear to have seen her.”

After the girl was struck by the Volvo, the driver and civilians lifted the car off of her and pulled her out from under the vehicle. A valet working at the Seattle Marriott Redmond across the street began CPR and first aid on the girl. According to court documents, the valet had been an emergency room doctor in his native country. The child had sustained catastrophic injuries and died by the time first responders arrived on the scene, the documents state.

Following the accident, the driver was cooperative with the investigation and submitted to a field sobriety test, giving a voluntary blood draw, according to court papers. The blood that was drawn at the scene showed a 0.18 level for methamphetamine and 0.02 level for morphine. Heroin will show as morphine, the documents state. While officers on the scene recognized that the driver was a heroin user based on the track marks on his arms, documents state that there was no suspicion that the driver was impaired at the scene.

Chronic addicts will develop a tolerance for their drugs and police “made no observation of impairment,” according to documents.

“In fact, they did not believe there was even reasonable suspicion or probable cause that (the driver) was impaired. He volunteered his blood, freely admitting that he was an addict,” court papers state. “The fact that drugs are present in his blood is arguably not admissible since there was no evidence that he was impaired from those drugs. He was not driving under the influence.”

Court documents state that the girl was inadequately attended and it is not reasonable for the driver to anticipate her running into his car’s path. There was no way to see her running from the sidewalk through the bushes.

The child's family's attorney, Karen Koehler of Stritmatter Kessler Whelan Koehler Moore Kahler, said at the time, the girl was being cared for by an experienced summertime nanny who was also a school teacher.

Koehler added that since the accident, the RTC has admitted by its actions that its playground area was a major factor in the toddler's death.

"They have now completely fenced in and gated the playground on that street corner," she said. "Before, it was left open to the road. They have installed a child at play sign to notify drivers as they approach the area. And they cut down the bushes that obscured the vision of drivers and re-landscaped the area."

When asked for a comment on these changes, a spokesperson from RTC said, “It is our policy not to comment on matters that involve pending litigation.”

“This was a terrible incident,” documents state. “But it was not due to (the driver’s) driving…It was due to the child running into the street from between bushes, 20 (feet) before the crosswalk.”

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