Investigators at the Washington State Patrol recommend terminating a trooper because of the way he fired his gun following an April traffic stop.
KING 5 News has learned that top brass at WSP are weighing firing Trooper Jeff Laeuger, a six year veteran of the patrol and trooper of the year for auto theft arrests in 2009.
Laeuger pulled over a man driving on Interstate 405 in Renton on April 9. Joseph Victor Gill had just stolen the Chrysler 300 sedan he was driving.
When Laeuger approached his window, Gill stepped on the gas and drove over the trooper’s foot.
Trooper Laeuger fired shots at the vehicle, which later crashed.
“The prosecutor has already looked at this case and they’ve determined there was no criminal misconduct (on the part of Laeuger),” said Trooper Tommie Pillow, president of the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association.
But two sources tell KING 5 the trooper didn’t fare so well in an internal investigation.
Laeuger was investigated for firing his weapon at the vehicle that was driving away from him, according to the sources. WSP policy generally does not allow officers to fire at fleeing felons.
Pillow says the union will wait to hear all the facts in the case before deciding whether to pay for an attorney for Laeuger to fight to keep his job.
But an email from another union official makes it clear that some troopers aren’t happy with the patrol’s recommendation of termination.
“…I feel this discipline is way above and beyond what is necessary,” wrote union representative Mike Cheek in an email to his fellow troopers urging letters of support for Laeuger.
Next month, Laeuger will be giving a chance to plead his case to his superiors at the State Patrol. The decision on his employment will be made after that.
Gill pleaded guilty to the charges against him and is now in prison.