Inquest opens to examine Clark Elementary School shootout
May 22, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
King County authorities started to examine the actions of Issaquah police officers involved in a deadly September 2011 shootout at Clark Elementary School as a prosecutor-led inquest opened May 21.
The officers shot and killed Ronald W. Ficker, 51, after the rural Maple Valley man abandoned a rental car at a downtown Issaquah intersection and, brandishing rifles and carrying ammunition, set off in the direction of school campuses.
The inquest focused on Cpl. Christian Munoz, and officers Laura Asbell, Tom Griffith, Brian Horn and Jesse Petersen. The inquest also involved the commander at the shooting scene, Sgt. Chris Wilson.
In King County, a prosecutor-led inquest is a fact-finding hearing conducted before a six-member jury. Such a panel is called to determine the circumstances in any officer-involved shooting in King County.
The jury consists of three men and three women, including a woman from Issaquah.
County officials said inquests into officer-involved shootings provide transparency into law enforcement actions for the public. No inquest conducted in the county has led to the filing of criminal charges against a police officer involved in a deadly shooting.
Inquest jurors answer a series of questions, called interrogatories, to determine the facts in the case. The jury does not, however, determine whether a person or agency is civilly or criminally liable for the incident.
Besides the involved officers, officials could request information from investigators and witnesses.
King County District Court Judge David Steiner is the presiding judge for the inquest.
The officers involved in the shootout have received state and national recognition.
In a May 4 ceremony on the Capitol grounds, Asbell, Horn, Munoz and Peterson received the Law Enforcement Medal of Honor from Gov. Chris Gregoire. The medal is the highest honor for a law enforcement officer in Washington.
The officers also attended a May 12 ceremony in Washington, D.C., to accept the Washington honorable mention award at the National Association of Police Organizations’ TOP COPS Awards.
The organization recognizes law enforcement officers from federal, state, county and local agencies each year for outstanding service. Organizers review submissions from throughout the United States to identify the top 10 cases to highlight as TOP COPS. Then, from the cases not selected, organizers select a case from each state for honorable mention.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.