Family of Slain Tacoma Officer Filing Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against.. By Cochran Douglas on August 19, 2019

TACOMA, Wash. — The daughters and estate of slain Tacoma Officer Reginald Gutierrez are filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Tacoma.

The lawsuit alleges that two weeks before Officer Gutierrez was killed by 38-year-old Bruce Johnson, police stopped Johnson but did not arrest him. He had an active warrant for his arrest, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also alleges police took Johnson's shotgun during the stop, but returned it to him. It was the same shotgun he used to kill Officer Gutierrez, according to the lawsuit.

There was an Officer Safety Notice regarding Bruce Johnson, according to the lawsuit. However, Officer Gutierrez was not aware of the danger, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit follows a tort claim that was quickly rejected by the city.

Attorney Loren Cochran previously said Tacoma police were called to the Tacoma Mall on November 15, 2016 after Johnson was seen walking through the mall impersonating an officer. He was wearing a cap with the word "Sheriff" on it, had handcuffs on his belt, and a rifle case over his shoulder. Cochran said Tacoma police confronted Johnson in the parking lot and found an unloaded shotgun in that case.

Johnson reportedly told officers he took his shotgun into the mall because he was headed to the gun range and didn't want to leave it in the car.

Cochran said if officers had run a background check on Johnson they would have found a warrant for his arrest. Instead, officers filed an incident report.

When asked why he was attempting to look like an officer, he reportedly said that he "liked police and wanted essentially to fit in."

Because Washington is an open-carry state, they gave him back his gun and sent him on his way. It was the same gun he used to kill Officer Gutierrez.

Officer Gutierrez was killed with a shotgun while responding to a domestic disturbance.

Hours later, a sniper killed 38-year-old Bruce Johnson after a shootout and standoff.

The city of Tacoma issued a statement Monday afternoon regarding the lawsuit:

“The tragic death of Officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez has had a lasting impact on Jake’s family, friends, co-workers, and the community that he faithfully served. Jake was an outstanding officer, respected for the many contributions and impacts that he made on the lives of others each and every day he came to work. For all of us who knew Jake, it was definitely a privilege working with him and calling him a friend.

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.”

Tacoma police declined to comment due to the ongoing litigation.

-- Kipp Robertson and Ted Land, King 5 News



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