PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Kevin Peterson Jr.’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against Clark County, claiming that its law enforcement has a “policy, custom and established practice” of allowing officers to wrongfully wield deadly force.
The lawsuit comes about nine months after prosecutors declined to charge the Clark County deputies who shot and killed Peterson during a drug sting in October 2020.
The 21-year-old Black man was shot and killed by two Clark County Sheriff’s Office deputies after running from police during a drug bust on Oct. 29, 2020, near the U.S. Bank on NE Highway 99 in Hazel Dell.
“It’s been horrible. It’s been 574 days. I haven’t seen him on holidays, mothers day. I haven’t forgot. It’s terrible,” said Kevin’s mother, Tammi Bell.
“Moving forward without your child is a nightmare for anybody,” said Kevin’s father, Kevin Peterson Sr.
Kevin also leaves behind a young daughter.
“It’s hard to raise my daughter without her dad. That’s the hardest part,” said Olivia Selto, the mother of Kevin’s child. “It hurts my heart to know she won’t have her dad.”
The family filed a wrongful death claim against Clark County in March 2021, and in August, the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office deemed the shooting to be “justified and lawful.”
The prosecutor said there was no legal requirement for the officers to wait until Peterson opened fire, and that given the facts of the case, it was reasonable for officers to believe deadly force was necessary.
The federal lawsuit filed Thursday cites two other deadly shootings from Clark County deputies and an alleged “unwarranted use of force:” Jenoah Donald, who was shot and killed by Clark County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sean Boyle following a traffic stop near NE 68th Street and NE 2nd Avenue, and the shooting death of off-duty Vancouver police officer Donald Sahota.
A similar complaint was filed by Jenoah Donald’s family in February against Clark County, alleging a civil rights violation and a pattern of excessive force used by its law enforcement officers. Attorney Mark Lindquist is working with both families.
“We’re hoping for accountability, justice, and there needs to be reform in the Clark County Sheriff’s Office,” Lindquist said.
Clark County Deputy Jonathan Feller, who shot and killed Sahota after a police response to a robbery went wrong, was also one of the three deputies involved in Peterson’s shooting. One of the other deputies was Jeremy Brown, who was killed in the line of duty in July.
“In a relatively short period of time, clark county sheriff’s deputies have shot and killed three people unnecessarily,” Lindquist said.
A spokesperson with the sheriff’s office told KOIN 6 News Feller is still employed with them, although CCSO will not make comments on ongoing litigation.
Liz Burch contributed to this story.