New Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney has reinstated a deputy who was fired by Fortney's predecessor over a fatal shooting.
In a statement Tuesday, the sheriff said Deputy Arthur Wallin never should have been fired in the first place because his actions were within department policy.
Wallin shot and killed 24-year-old Nickolas Peters following a chase by Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies in October 2018.
The Snohomish County Prosecutor's Office declined to file charges against Wallin, but earlier this month the county settled a federal lawsuit brought by Peters' family for $1 million.
Full statement from Sheriff Fortney:
Last Friday, I reinstated Deputy Arthur Wallin to full commissioned status as a Deputy Sheriff K-9 handler with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.
Before I was elected Sheriff, I was well aware of the incident that Deputy Wallin was involved in that led to his termination by the former administration. I believe I speak for many Sheriff’s Office employees that we were shocked when the former administration decided to terminate him even after he was cleared of criminal charges by the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney. After the election, but prior to taking office, I made no promises to Deputy Wallin other than I would give the case a second look. I felt obligated to do so since the facts that I knew at the time of the incident did not seem to warrant termination. I knew full well that after taking office I could learn more information that previously had not been available to me which may lead me to upholding the termination case. I went into the review process with an open mind. The review consisted of reading the entire file, which included both the results of the SMART investigation and the Sheriff’s Office internal investigation by the Office of Professional Accountability. The file contained additional information that I did not have prior to taking office. After carefully reviewing the information, I found the termination of Deputy Wallin was not justified and that his actions were reasonable under the circumstances the suspect chose to put him in that night:
1. Deputy Wallin’s pursuit of the suspect was within policy because the suspect was under the influence of alcohol or drugs and posed a danger to other drivers on the road, and the suspect was using his truck as a weapon (purposefully ramming patrol vehicles) posing a credible threat to responding deputies and the public;
2. Deputy Wallin’s decision to use deadly force was within policy because he was protecting his partner and the community from an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.
The bottom line is, Deputy Wallin never should have been terminated in the first place. Deputy sheriffs are expected to make split second decisions in situations which are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving. The incident the former administration terminated him for would fall under this category. Deputy Wallin believed his partner's life was in danger when he chose to use force. I believe Deputy Wallin’s actions were reasonable under the circumstances in which they occurred. I also believe the SMART investigation supported Deputy Wallin’s version of what took place that night and his decision was appropriate under the circumstances. In my judgment, Deputy Wallin put his life on the line to protect both his partner and his community.
I understand the difficult job that law enforcement officers, corrections, and support personnel have to go through in their daily duties. I value the work of all Sheriff’s Office employees and I am committed to ensuring that they are always treated fairly by this administration.