Seattle, WA – The teenager responsible for a reckless, high-speed pursuit that resulted in the death of Kent Police Officer Diego Moreno was sentenced to less than four years in juvenile prison on Nov. 15.
Emiliano Garcia, 17, was initially charged as an adult for the second-degree murder of Officer Moreno, and faced between 10 and 18 years in prison, KING reported.
He later entered into a plea agreement, and was sentenced as a juvenile.
On Nov. 15, the court ordered Garcia to remain in juvenile lockup until he is 21 years old.
Garcia was 16 years old when he and two other juvenile males opened fire in a crowded parking lot during a dispute at approximately 1:50 a.m. on July 22, 2018, KCPQ reported.
A Kent police officer heard the gunfire, and called backup to the area, KOMO reported at the time.
Witnesses at the scene told police that a red pickup was involved in the incident, and pointed the vehicle out to officers.
The driver, later identified as Garcia, failed to pull over and police began pursuing him westbound on State Road 516 at speeds of up to 95 miles per hour, KING reported.
At one point, the teen spun around and headed back towards the officers, according to KOMO.
Officer Moreno staged on State Road 516 near Reith Road, and attempted to deploy spike strips when another officer pursuing Garcia crashed into him.
The officer’s patrol vehicle then collided with three other vehicles in a nearby intersection.
The pursuit ended about a mile later, when the Garcia slammed the pickup into a car and rolled onto it’s top.
He then took off from the scene on foot with one of his passengers, but was apprehended later that day, The Seattle Times reported.
Officer Moreno died of his injuries, and a second officer was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, according to KOMO.
Officer Moreno, a 35-year-old married father of two young children, grew up in Venezuela, KCPQ reported.
“When I decided that I wanted to start a career in law enforcement, I looked at several agencies,” he told KIRO approximately three years ago. “Luckily, Kent was the first one to give me…an opportunity and I’m glad I took it.”
“I grew up in Venezuela, so a third-world country,” Officer Moreno explained. “Police culture is very different down there.”
He was part of the department’s civil disturbance unit/riot team, and was also a hostage negotiator, defensive tactics instructor, and helped new hires to learn the agency’s computer software programs, he told KIRO.
“[I’m] a fluent Spanish speaker so I get to assist our detective units a lot with translating for suspects [and] victims,” Officer Moreno explained. “We have a huge Hispanic population in the city of Kent and also in south King County, so I get to help out not only our agency, but other agencies as well.”
Officer Moreno said he received two commendations during his first six years with the department.
“[They] weren’t expected – they were appreciated,” he told KIRO. “At times, I felt like I didn’t deserve them because I was doing my job just like everybody else.”
Officer Moreno had been with the department for eight years at the time of his death.
His sister, Alejandra Moreno, addressed the court during Garcia’s sentencing hearing on Nov.15.
“My life shattered. I lost my best friend. l lost my big brother, and I lost my soulmate. My mom lost her only son and his kids lost their amazing father,” Alejandra said, according to KING. “”Now, almost 16 months after his death, the silence of his absence is heartbreakingly deafening.”
“I do not speak about my brother often, at least not at length,” she continued, according to KCPQ. “It’s mostly because I think I can’t possibly do him justice.”
Officer Moreno’s mother, Lizzie Lee, said her son went “above and beyond to make people feel appreciated,” KCPQ reported.
Garcia apologized to the fallen officer’s family during the hearing.
“I want you all to know that I never meant to hurt anyone,” he said. “I can’t imagine the pain and suffering I have inflicted on his family, his coworkers and many others.”
King County Superior Court Judge Sean O’Donnell told Garcia that the court has provided him with “a remarkable opportunity to turn a page,” KING reported.
“I hope you take advantage of that,” O’Donnell added.
The two passengers inside Garcia’s vehicle at the time of the high-speed chase later pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, The Seattle Times reported.
They were sentenced to 60 days in jail with credit for time served, followed by two years of probation.