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Antifa police shooting: Lakewood claimed “unresponsive records”, up to $25K settlement

The City of Lakewood council, at the end of its August 1 meeting, went into executive session. It then voted in favor of settling with a certain Arthur West, for an amount not exceeding $25,000.

The story started on August 29, 2020.  There were clashes in Portland, Oregon, involving pro-Trump and antifa groups. In one incident, antifa demonstrator Michael Reinoehl shot and killed Patriot Prayer supporter Aaron Danielson. Danielson was also armed.

Michael Reinoehl fled northwards, into Washington State. He ended up in Lacey, just north of Olympia, and this is where he was gunned down by law enforcement officers.

Or as The New York Times put it put it:

On Sept. 3, about 120 miles north of Portland, Mr. Reinoehl was getting into his Volkswagen station wagon when a pair of unmarked sport utility vehicles roared through the quiet streets, screeching to a halt just in front of his bumper. Members of a U.S. Marshals task force jumped out and unleashed a hail of bullets that shattered windows, whizzed past bystanders and left Mr. Reinoehl dead in the street.

Four police officers fired at Michael Reinoehl. According to The New York Times, his .308 handgun was found in his pocket and his rifle was “apparently untouched in a bag in his car”.

The four officers, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting, were members of a federal task force, and included Lakewood police officer Michael Merrill.

On October 23, 2020, Arthur West submitted a public records request with the City of Lakeood, with the subject line “RE: Public Records Request for Reinoehl Arrest and Investigation Records”. The subject line spelled Reinoehl’s name correctly, but in the body of the request it was spelled “Reinoel”.

As part of the search, the City’s public record specialist contacted the Police Department, who told her “that the Lakewood Police had no responsive records because the incident was being investigated by Thurston County“. The specialist then searched the City’s email server, and found no relevant files, because she was using the misspelled name, used in the request’s body.

On December 18, the public record specialist told Arthur West that there were no responsive records. She further stated “The records requested are associated with a case that is under active investigation and non-disclosure is essential to effective law enforcement“.

A few days later Arthur West started legal proceedings. He went through the Pierce County Superior Court and the State of Washington Court of Appeals. The latter found in his favor, in an opinion filed on July 12, 2022. As a result, the City of Lakewood council agreed to settle the case, for an amount not exceeding $25,000.

Some people reading this might be concerned about such a high settlement, for what seems a very small mistake. However, it is a matter of public concern when a Lakewood police officer is involved in a fatal shooting. We need to know all the details, and we need to know what action the City and its police department are taking.

Arthur West, whoever he might be, should be congratulated for bringing the City of Lakewood to account.

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