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Off-duty Auburn police officer was allegedly going 85 mph before striking, killing pedestrian

Michael Smith, 33, allegedly struck and killed 65-year-old Clifford Jones while he appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, according to court documents.

SEATTLE — An off-duty Auburn police officer who allegedly struck and killed a pedestrian in Seattle's Interbay neighborhood is facing charges for vehicular homicide, reckless driving and a misdemeanor hit-and-run.

The officer, identified as 33-year-old Michael Smith, allegedly struck and killed 65-year-old Clifford Jones while he appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, according to charging documents.

The victim's daughter, Miranda Hartman, spoke to KING 5 over the phone and said Jones was her best friend and protector.

"It's been hard," said Hartman. "It's been very hard. We're doing the best that we can. He's going to be missed by a lot of people."

Jones was a retired marine who attended college in Edmonds. He had two daughters and seven grandchildren and went by the nickname "Rooster," Hartman said.

"I thought he was 33, 34. He had a young heart, a young soul. That's for sure," she said. "I hope justice is served the way it should be... on this Michael Smith."

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Smith was driving his 2016 Mercedes northbound on Alaskan Way in downtown Seattle on April 23. Smith was driving in the outside lane when he struck the right rear corner of a taxi that was driving in the inside lane, according to court documents. 

The collision caused minor damage to the taxi. Neither the taxi driver nor the passenger were injured, according to documents. Both cars stopped, and Smith exited his vehicle.

Smith appeared angry and opened the front passenger door of the taxi in an attempt to grab the driver out of the car, according to charging documents. Smith then attempted to open the driver's side door when the driver said he was calling the police, according to charging documents. 

Smith returned to his car and sped off northbound on Alaskan Way without leaving his contact information, insurance information or waiting for police, according to charging documents.

Ten minutes after Smith allegedly hit the taxi, he was speeding northbound on 15th Avenue Northwest when a witness reported him passing traffic using the oncoming southbound lane, according to court documents. Another witness estimated Smith was going 80 miles an hour. Data obtained from his car's Crash Data Recorder showed Smith was going 85 mph on a road with a 30 mph speed limit in the seconds before he crashed.

Smith tried to turn right onto Gilman Drive West, but before reaching the intersection, he could not remain in the right lane and drove onto the sidewalk, according to documents. Smith allegedly sideswiped a telephone pole and struck a pedestrian, identified as 65-year-old Clifford Jones.

Jones suffered "catastrophic injuries" and was killed almost immediately, according to court documents.

Smith continued through an uphill grassy embankment, striking three mailboxes before coming to a stop against the northern curb of the westbound lane of Gilman Drive, about 100 feet away from where he drove onto the sidewalk, according to charging documents.

Smith then stumbled out of his car and told a witness that he was OK, but pointed and said "he's not," according to charging documents.

Officers who responded to the scene observed signs that Smith was impaired. Smith admitted to drinking alcohol at a Mariners game before the crash but declined to do a field sobriety test, according to charging documents. A drug recognition expert who responded to the scene observed that Smith was "obviously impaired from alcohol," according to documents.

The passenger who was in the taxi when Smith hit it was brought to the scene and positively identified him, according to documents.

A search warrant to extract Smith's blood was approved and carried out about two hours after the fatal crash. The results of the test are pending.

The state requested Smith's bail remain at $200,000. He posted bail at his first appearance hearing.

Smith's arraignment hearing, where he will enter a plea, is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on May 11.

Smith is on administrative leave from the Auburn Police Department while the investigation is ongoing.

    

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