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July 2, 2012 at 3:33 PM

Family of Woodinville man killed by deputy files lawsuit

The family of a Woodinville man who was shot and killed by a King County sheriff’s deputy during a domestic violence call in 2009 has filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit, alleging the man posed no threat and that Sheriff’s Office’s policies contributed to the shooting.

James L. Slater Jr., 59, was shot twice in the chest by a deputy with an assault rifle outside Slater’s home on July 4, 2009. Slater was clad in his underwear and slippers, and had cut himself with a large kitchen knife, according to reports at the time.

However, the lawsuit alleges — and the Sheriff’s Office has since acknowledged — that Slater had left the knife on an porch bench and was unarmed when he stood and walked toward Deputy Peter Cougan, who had responded to a domestic disturbance at the Slater house and found Slater sitting on a bench outside the home.

According to the lawsuit, Cougan armed himself with a personal Bushmaster assault rifle he had permission to carry from the department, according to the lawsuit filed by Laura Casablanca, Slater’s wife, and his son and stepdaughter.

The lawsuit alleges that Cougan knew Slater was not armed, was not aggressive or resistant, and did not threaten the officers. The lawsuit alleges that Cougan offered no warning before firing two shots, striking Slater in the lungs, liver and heart and killing him almost instantly.

John Muenster, Casablanca’s attorney, alleges Cougan was not propertly trained in how to deal with suicidal suspects or to attempt to de-escalate a situation before using deadly force.

Muenster also alleges that Cougan, as a deputy, was shown preference during the investigation by not being required to give a statement until after consulting with an attorney.

“King County’s policies evidence a conflict between the County’s duty to investigate and prosecute police killingsof unarmed American civilians, and the county’s desire to shield its employees and itself from civil and criminal liability,” the lawsuit said.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Cyndi West said it would not be appropriate to discuss pending litigation.

Comments | More in General news, The Blotter | Topics: civil rights, King County Sheriff's Office, Officer-involved shooting

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