Daughters of Slain Tacoma Police Officer File Wrongful Death Lawsuit.. By Cochran Douglas on August 19, 2019

TACOMA, Wash. -- The daughters of slain Tacoma police officer Jake Gutierrez are taking his own department to task claiming his death could have and should have been prevented.

Monday they took the extraordinary step of filing suit against the department. In essence, the daughters say the department and fellow officers let their father down in a series of missteps that ultimately led to his death.

“Not only have we lost a father,” said Victoria Gutierrez. “We lost our best friend.”

Victoria and sister Gabriella Cothran stood at the steps of the Pierce County courthouse with a picture of their father smiling down on them.

“We just know that it could have been prevented if other things were followed,” said Gabriella.

They and their attorneys also provided two items they say are key to what could have prevented their father’s death.

One is an arrest warrant for Bruce Johnson that was never acted upon. He is the man who killed Guiterrez during a domestic violence call in November 2016. Johnson was later killed by a sniper.

The other is an "officer safety alert" issued two weeks before the shooting, but the family says Gutierrez never got it.

“If protocols were followed our father would be here today and since they weren’t followed we have suffered a great loss in our lives,” said Victoria.

The lawsuit says this all goes back to an episode at the Tacoma Mall Oct. 15, 2016, two weeks before the shooting. Police say you can see Johnson walking down the mall with a weapons case, a sheriff’s hat and handcuffs.

Tacoma police later stopped his car just in front of the mall. Despite the arrest warrant, the lawsuit said the Tacoma officers did not arrest him.

"The TPD officers then handed that 20-gauge shotgun back to Bruce Johnson and that ultimately was the weapon that the medical examiner determined killed Jake Gutierrez on Nov. 30, 2016,” said Loren Cochran, family atty.

They did, however, put out that officer safety alert meant to give officers a heads-up if they run into Johnson. The daughters say their father never got the warning.

“Our dad was a police officer forever,” said Gabriella. “He knew when there was a threat. It’s their job to make him aware and if he was made aware we wouldn’t even be here.”

The city of Tacoma released this statement, “The City is aware of the lawsuit related to Jake’s death from members of his family. The City’s Legal Department has evaluated the claims being asserted, and while we are deeply sorry, and share his family’s tremendous sense of loss, the facts alleged in this lawsuit are simply insufficient to support liability against the City.”

The lawyers say it could take 1-1/2 years to go to trial.

-- Keith Eldridge and KOMO News Staff, Komo News




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