Photo by SounderBruce/Wikipedia Commons

Photo by SounderBruce/Wikipedia Commons

King County Suspends a Detective for Attacking an Uber Driver

The Sheriff’s discipline comes as the result of violent off-duty behavior.

King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht has decided to discipline King County Detective Janette Luitgaarden for allegedly assaulting an Uber driver during a ride to her home while off-duty on Nov. 4, 2017.

According to a Aug. 9 press release from the Sheriff’s Office, an internal investigation concluded that Detective Luitgaarden “punched, kicked, scratched, and slapped her Uber driver. (A Washington State Trooper who responded to the incident noted that Luitgaarden seemed ‘significantly intoxicated.’)” After both the investigation and hearing—where the detective was able to present her side of the incident—Sheriff Johanknecht has decided that Luitgaarden will serve a four-day, 40-hour suspension without pay for “conduct unbecoming.”

“Our employees should never behave in a way that diminishes public trust and respect for law enforcement” said Sheriff Johanknecht in the press release. “While I recognize that law enforcement is a stressful profession and our employees will, from time to time, struggle with personal difficulties, I expect our law enforcement and professional staff members to act lawfully and be good role models.”

The Uber driver did not wish to press charges against the detective, and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office also declined to file charges in the case. According to a January 2018 memo from King County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Benjamin Santos, the office declined to charge Detective Luitgaarden because it did not have sufficient evidence. “In order to prove assault in the 4th degree, the State must show beyond a reasonable doubt an intentional striking of another person that is harmful or offensive. Here, it is essentially undisputed that the victim was in fact struck by the suspect,” the memo read. “However, given the circumstances, it would be difficult to prove that the striking was intentional and ultimately unlawful given the suspect’s level of intoxication and potential claims of mistaken belief and/or self defense.”

jkelety@seattleweekly.com

More in News & Comment

King County Charter Update Targets Police Oversight, Elections, Council Size

A commission is reviewing the county’s charter and will make recommendations by May.

Primrose School of West Bellevue saw a second location in Washington open in 2018. Madison Miller/staff photo.
Parents Feel The Pinch Of Child Care Costs

King County report charts ways the county could reduce child care costs and boost access.

Proposal Calls For Banning Eye Tattoos in Washington State

Canada has already banned this procedure.

Split Washington In Two? 51st State Movement Highlights Cultural Divide

Rep. Matt Shea of Spokane introduces bill to establish state in Eastern Washington called Liberty.

Repercussions Could Come To Law Enforcement Who Refuse I-1639

‘State and local law enforcement must uphold Washington law.’

Despite Supreme Court Ruling, Activists Fight Youth Incarceration

No New Youth Jail Coalition members send Valentines to King County officials asking them to reconsider funding priorities

Tukwila Businesses Face Uncertain Future With Arrival Of Justice Center

Immigrant communities in Tukwila and SeaTac are under pressure.

Andy Bronson / The Herald 
                                Southbound traffic backs up as northbound drivers cruise on with ease on the Highway 99 viaduct on Tuesday, January 8.
WSDOT Hopes ‘Viadoom’ Habits Continue

The department credits commuters with adapting to the closure and mitigating impacts.

President’s Emergency Declaration Sparks Immediate Legal Backlash

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his team will sue the White House if federal funds originally intended for Washington state are interrupted.

Most Read