‘We are a country of laws’: Councilmember echoes calls to prosecute teen hit-and-run suspect as adult

Sep 22, 2021, 3:40 PM | Updated: Sep 23, 2021, 6:38 am
teen hit and run...
(Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn is calling for the 15-year-old suspect of an alleged series of hit and run incidents, one of which resulted in the death of Maple Valley’s Greg Moore, to be tried in adult court.

“On balance, I thought, until these new facts, boy, that’s a close call,” Dunn said. “I thought maybe juvenile courts [would be] more appropriate. Then I learned … that the same individual allegedly has done this at least one other time under very similar circumstances.”

“For me, I am very concerned because it shows a continuing pattern of predatory behavior: the heinous acts of using the vehicle to kill people, allegedly,” he continued. “I am now asking the prosecutor to review this, if it is inappropriate for adult court as opposed to juvie.”

Dunn appeared on KIRO’s Dori Monson Show after a second victim was identified in connection with the suspect, who is alleged to have deliberately struck Moore while operating a vehicle. As a former prosecutor himself, Dunn broke down how the alleged second hit and run incident is evidence of a pattern of behavior, indicative of the suspect’s danger to the community, something that could escalate the case to adult court.

“State law allows the prosecutor to seek a hearing to have the alleged perpetrator moved into an adult court … if it’s in the best interests of the community,” Dunn said. “Right here in King County, you have somebody who’s allegedly mowed down at least a couple of people, perhaps more, with obvious intent. It’s not just intent, it’s insidious.”

“That is exactly the kind of case where adult sentencing is appropriate. Here is what you have: This very short time span where they’re going to be in the juvenile system, a minimum security style system, and then they’re back out on the street again. I don’t want to see my friends and neighbors in King County running down the side of the road, or at a street fair, at a gas station and be subject to somebody with this propensity. Adult court seems appropriate to me.”

Dunn spoke to the larger, systemic problems that arise from lenient sentencing handed down in juvenile court systems.

“There has been a systemic attempt to decriminalize everything, particularly related to juveniles,” Dunn said. “There are very few things in the world that you can do these days as a 17-year-old where you’re going to get in trouble. I have to tell you something: 15, 16 and 17 year-olds can be very, very dangerous.

“You have a situation here where somebody is a clear, in my opinion, alleged danger to the community,” Dunn added. “That needs to be met with justice: Justice for Michelle, who is now a widow, justice for the community, justice to make sure that our community is safe. The theory of prosecution is deterrence. We have to begin to take cases like this and others seriously.”

He spoke to King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg Office’s public comments about the likelihood that the teen hit-and-run suspect will be prosecuted as a minor.

Why county isn’t prosecuting teen suspect in fatal Maple Valley hit-and-run as an adult

“Dan [Satterberg] doesn’t believe that the judges will [move the case to adult court],” Dunn said. “You know what my response is? Let’s try, let’s see, let’s put this on a judge. We know that the murder rate will be the [highest] all-time murder rate in King County this year. We know that shootings are at record high. We know that this community is far less safe. I hate to bring it into broader public policy because every case needs to be fact specific, but this is an indicator case. It’s an indicator of a larger issue. Are we going to take people who kill people seriously, or are we not?”

Over 300 homicides were reported in Washington state in 2020, an all-time high (without adjustment for population) according to Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

Dunn addressed a defense likely heard from the suspect, that their age is synonymous with bad judgement, something which might allow for them to be sentenced as a minor.

“Maybe that argument made sense when you’ve got a single count, but now you have multiple attempts,” Dunn noted. “The other thing is it doesn’t necessarily need to be that you intended to use the car to kill somebody. The felony murder doctrine says that if you kill somebody while you’re committing another felony, you’re on the hook for murder.”

“If your judgment is so bad that you’re mowing people down, allegedly, on the streets multiple times, that’s a different issue,” Dunn continued. “It’s an issue of community safety and we have to take that very seriously.”

He intimated that prevailing interpretation of laws related to juvenile sentencing in homicide cases have led to a deterioration of the criminal justice system, and that adult sentencing in this particular teen hit-and-run case is necessary to uphold his definition of justice.

“The policy of King County is zero youth incarceration,” Dunn said. “That’s the official policy, against my vote. Look, we are a country, as they say, of laws, not of men. What they mean by that is we need to follow the law.”

“If we don’t follow the law, you get into the slippery slope, and that slippery slope looks like what you’re seeing today: The highest murder rate in history in King County. It just goes on and on and on. You must hold people accountable, as hard as it is for our community, our society, and some on the left,” he said. “Folks must be brought to justice. That’s what needs to happen here with the perpetrator in the very tragic Greg Moore case.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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‘We are a country of laws’: Councilmember echoes calls to prosecute teen hit-and-run suspect as adult