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Court Says Deputy Knew Risk Working In Understaffed Agency Before His Murder, Dismisses Family’s Lawsuit

Tacoma, WA – A wrongful death lawsuit alleging that understaffing was a contributing factor to the line-of-duty death of a Pierce County sheriff’s deputy was dismissed on Monday.

Pierce County Sheriff’s Department (PCSD) Deputy Daniel McCartney, 34, was fatally shot while responding to a call for a home invasion at a home off of 200th Street East near 46th Avenue on Jan. 7, 2018, The News Tribune reported at the time.

Deputy McCartney, a U.S. Navy veteran and married father-of-three, succumbed to his wounds just after 2 a.m. the following day.

He devoted 10 years of his life to his law enforcement career, The News Tribune reported.

“He ran toward trouble,” said Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor, who has since retired. “He ran to protect somebody whose house was being actively broken into.”

Deputy McCartney’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county earlier this year, alleging that inadequate staffing at the PCSD created a safety issue for deputies and contributed to Deputy McCartney’s death, The News Tribune reported.

“Understaffing is not an inherent risk of working as a law enforcement officer,” the family’s lawsuit said. “Pierce County was duty bound to provide sufficient staff or alternatively to decline a law enforcement response and to inform the public of the inability to keep its residents safe by timely responding to calls with sufficient staffing.”

The family requested the court issue “an order mandating sufficient staffing or other equitable relief that will prevent a repeat of another wrongful deputy death,” and also sought damages, according to the paper.

The county filed a motion asking for the case to be dismissed, arguing that Deputy McCartney was aware of the alleged inadequate staffing, but that he chose to go to work anyway, The News Tribune reported.

“Because the Complaint alleges facts establishing Deputy McCartney’s awareness of the hazard at issue, claims he was present and exposed to that danger due to supposed negligent understaffing by the County, and admits he voluntarily confronted that risk as part of the work for which he was being compensated, the instant action is barred by the professional rescuer doctrine as a matter of law,” the county’s motion read.

The county further argued that “professional rescuers assume certain risks inherent in their jobs and may not collect damages from those whose negligence brings about such risks,” The News Tribune reported.

A response filed on behalf of the slain deputy’s family accused the county of misapplying the professional rescuer doctrine and argued that “permitting its deputies to work unsafely was not a liability free choice for Pierce County.”

Superior Court Judge Karena Kirkendoll sided with the county and granted the motion to dismiss on April 12, The News Tribune reported.

Deputy McCartney’s family has already filed an appeal.

According to investigators, the home invaders used knives and guns to hold three adults and two children hostage during the incident that wound up being Deputy McCartney’s final call, KING reported.

One of the hostages managed to escape and called 911 for help.

Deputy McCartney was the first one to arrive at the scene, KING reported.

He ended up in a foot pursuit with the armed suspects before sending out a call of “shots fired,” according to police.

The gunman who fatally shot Deputy McCartney is serving a sentence of life without parole, The News Tribune reported.

One suspect fatally shot himself at the scene, and two others have also been sentenced in connection with the deputy’s murder.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin

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