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Family of teen killed by King County deputies files lawsuit

The family of a teen fatally shot in 2017 in Des Moines during a sting operation is suing King County and four deputies.
Police tape. (Photo: Detroit Free Press)

DES MOINES, Wash. — The family of a teen fatally shot in 2017 in Des Moines during a sting operation is suing King County and four deputies.

Mi'Chance Dunlap-Gittens died after he was shot by deputies during an undercover operation near an apartment complex in January 2017. Investigators were trying to make contact with Gittens’s friend, who they considered a person of interest in a Sammamish homicide.

In the lawsuit, the family calls the shooting "preventable." It began, according to the lawsuit, when deputies learned Dunlap-Gittens' friend was trying to sell alcohol. Pretending to be someone interested in buying the alcohol, deputies set up a meeting in Des Moines, according to the lawsuit. When Dunlap-Gittens and his friend arrived, the deputies "burst" out of a van and shot at the two, according to the lawsuit.

Neither were involved in the eastside homicide. 

Hours after the shooting, a teen said he thought Dunlap-Gittens fired first, who then returned fire. However, the teen later backed off those statements, saying he did not see a gun in Dunlap-Gittens' hands. 

According to the family,  Dunlap-Gittens' arms were holding several bottles of alcohol, defying the claim that he was holding a gun. 

The family says the sting operation was "recklessly designed and supervised."

King County deputies Sgt. Todd Miller, Det. Joseph Eshom, Det. Reed Jones and Det. Mike Garske are named as defendants.

The King County Sheriff's Office issued a statement Thursday in response to the filed lawsuit, saying in part: 

Many of the claims made in the legal complaint filed in federal court are inaccurate, and some of them are simply misleading, but we intend to try this case in the courtroom and not in the media.

The events in question were already examined by an inquest jury of King County residents who heard extensive testimony, including testimony from witnesses who are not KCSO personnel. That jury found that Mr. Dunlap-Gittens raised a firearm in the direction of KCSO detectives. Those findings are in the public record.

Under our legal system, it’s easy to make allegations. Proving them is another matter. We ask that all interested people keep an open mind while this case unfolds in court.

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