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State will pay $3.3 million to family of King County deputy killed by ex-convict

Post by Joe Turner on Sep. 10, 2009 at 11:30 am |
September 28, 2009 1:32 pm

Here’s the story I wrote for Friday’s print edition of The News Tribune. (Below it are links to stories that I wrote in 2007 that are related to this case, as well as the state’s news release.)

BY Joseph Turner
The News Tribune

Washington has agreed to pay $3.275 million to the family of a King County deputy who was killed by an ex-convict under supervision by the state prison system.

The widow and child of deputy Steve Cox claimed the state Department of Corrections was negligent in its supervision of Raymond Porter, a drug offender who had been released from prison and killed Deputy Cox in December 2006.

The original $22 million claim against the state, filed a year after his death, alleged prison officials let Porter out of prison too soon. He had been serving time at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center outside Aberdeen for drug and assault convictions and had been released only four months before he killed Deputy Cox.

“Deputy Cox was a courageous and beloved officer who protected his community and we all are diminished by his loss,” DOC Secretary Eldon Vail said in a news release issued on Thursday. “We sympathize with the loss of love, compassion, nurturing and other immeasurable qualities Steve Cox brought to his family. The Department of Corrections is deeply saddened and heartsick over the death of Deputy Cox. We hope the Cox family can begin to put part of this tragedy in the past and begin healing.”

Seattle attorney John Payne, who represented the Cox family, said Maria Cox, the deputy’s widow, “is very grateful and relieved to have this resolved and that she can put this behind her and move on.”

Steve Cox was the third of three law enforcement officers who were killed over a five-month span in 2006 by ex-convicts who were still under community supervision by the DOC. Cox was investigating an incident at a home in south Seattle on Dec. 2, 2006 when Porter shot and killed him.

In August 2006, ex-convict Mary Rivas, who was under the influence of alcohol and drugs, drove her vehicle into a patrol car driven by Seattle police officer Joselito Barber. Barber was killed. Rivas has been released from prison only 10 days earlier.

In November 2006, ex-convict Neal Kelley broadsided a car driven by off-duty Seattle police officer Mary Beth Nowak, killing both of them.

That series of deaths led then-DOC Secretary Harold Clarke to implement some changes in community supervision, including making community corrections officers visit offenders at their homes within 10 days of their release from prison. The changes also included more liberal use of arrest warrants for offenders who fail to show up for supervision appointments and jail time and drug treatment for violations of community supervision.

Clarke left Washington for a similar job in Massachusetts a week before the Cox claim was filed.

Kate Lykins Brown, spokeswoman for the governor’s risk management department, said Thursday that no claims have been filed against the state in connection with either of the other two officers’ deaths.

The DOC investigation into the handling of Porter’s supervision showed he repeatedly tested positive for drug use and missed appointments with his probation officer, but was not sent back to prison, as he could have been.

No corrections officer ever visited Porter at his home, the report also said.
In March 2007, DOC had 748 officers assigned to supervise more than 27,000 offenders. Those numbers have been cut dramatically in the 2009-11 state budget passed by the Legislature in April, so there will be even fewer community corrections officers over the coming months.

Cox is survived by his widow, Maria and his son, Bronson, who is now 4 years old.

joe.turner@thenewstribune.com
Joseph Turner: 360-786-1826
blogs.thenewstribune.com/politics

UPDATE: (12:14 p.m.) Kathy Gastreich, DOC risk management director, said she can find no indication that the families of the other two slain officers have filed claims against the state, but that just means there are no claims filed under the officers’ names. There still could be claims filed by others, she said.

UPDATE No. 2: (1:42 p.m.) Kate Lykins Brown, spokeswoman for the governor’s risk management office, said Thursday that no claims have been filed against the state in connection with either of the other officers’ deaths.

Here is a link to the story I wrote when Connelly filed his then-$22 million lawsuit against the state.

And here is a link to the story about how DOC admitted some mistakes were made in the supervision of the three offenders who ended up killing cops shortly after their respective releases from prison.

DOC to Pay Nearly $3.3 Million to Slain Officer’s Family

OLYMPIA – The Department of Corrections today agreed to pay $3.275 million to help compensate the family of King County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Steve Cox who was killed in 2006 by an offender under community supervision.

Cox was investigating an incident at a home in the White Center neighborhood of Seattle on Dec. 2, 2006 when Raymond Porter shot and killed him. Porter died from a gunshot wound shortly after being taken from the scene of the incident.

Porter was under DOC community supervision after serving prison sentences for drug offenses, assault and failing to return to work release. The Cox family claimed that DOC was negligent in its supervision of Porter.

“Deputy Cox was a courageous and beloved officer who protected his community and we all are diminished by his loss,” said DOC Secretary Eldon Vail. “We sympathize with the loss of love, compassion, nurturing and other immeasurable qualities Steve Cox brought to his family. The Department of Corrections is deeply saddened and heartsick over the death of Deputy Cox. We hope the Cox family can begin to put part of this tragedy in the past and begin healing.”

DOC also implemented a number of measures designed to improve supervision of offenders in the community at the direction of Gov. Chris Gregoire following this and two other cases involving deaths of law enforcement officers.

Those measures included a new range of sanctions, including jail time, intended to respond to the severity of offenders’ violations of community supervision conditions. The measures also included increased use of chemical dependency treatment and other programs that have proven to be effective in helping offenders.

As part of the settlement, Cox’s wife and child have released their claims against the Department and its employees.

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