Family of slain King County deputy sues state

By CHRIS MCGANN | The Seattle PI

OLYMPIA– The family of slain King County Deputy Steve Cox has filed a $20 million lawsuit against the state, claiming negligence on the part of the Department of Corrections.

Cox, 46, died Dec. 2, 2006, after a gang member he was trying to interview shot him inside a White Center house. Investigators later realized the gang member, Raymond Porter, had killed another man the same day. Porter, who was killed by deputies after he shot Cox, was a convicted felon under community supervision when he killed Cox.

The suit says the state’s supervision of Porter was negligent, as was the decision to release him from prison in the first place.

Lawyers for Cox’s wife and 2- year-old son say Porter had escaped prison in 2004 while on work release. After his capture one month later, he received a 33-month sentence on top of his original sentence on felon drug charges.

When he was released in August 2005, documents show that the state failed to impose the prison sentence he had received for escaping.

Cox’s lawyers, Jack Connelly and Lincoln Beauregard, say “the Department of Corrections’ own documents reveal that Porter should have still been in prison at the time he shot and killed Deputy Cox.”

Corrections spokesman Chad Lewis said the “department is concerned for the Cox family and anguishes over this senseless death. The department will work with the Office of the Attorney General on this matter but routinely does not discuss tort claims at this early stage.”

The Connelly law firm routinely handles cases involving failed supervision, notably winning a $22.4 million jury verdict against the state in the case of Paula Joyce, who was killed by a felon on supervision.

Connelly said he has the documentation to prove that the department “dropped the ball.”

“(Porter) should not have been out on the streets and Deputy Cox should be alive and with his family today.”

The state Department of Corrections investigated three recent cases of officers killed by felons who were under state supervision, including Cox’s.

A department report requested by Gov. Chris Gregoire after Cox’s death detailed a list of departmental failings, including corrections officers’ failure to respond quickly to violations committed by offenders on community release, but it approached those as problems within the system itself.

The report detailed needed improvements for community corrections and a timeline for getting the job done.