Slain King County woman’s family claims in lawsuit police could have prevented shooting
Sep 14, 2023, 5:05 PM | Updated: 5:08 pm
(Paul W. Gillespie/Via AP)
The family of a woman shot and killed by her son in 2021 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), saying deputies did not do enough to protect her.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in King County Superior Court, claims the sheriff’s office declined to intervene in the domestic violence situation, citing a law passed earlier that year that places limits on when law enforcement can use force on someone experiencing a mental health crisis.
Karin Riebe, 58, called 911 multiple times on the morning of September 14, 2021, according to the complaint. She reportedly told the dispatcher her son had a gun and was threatening her.
The first 911 call came at 7 a.m. Karin Riebe said Shawn Riebe, 40, was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was “really having issues right now.” She explained Shawn had been up since 2 a.m. and doing “strange things” like rocking back and forth on his bed.
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“Something is wrong, he needs some help,” Riebe told the dispatcher.
Emergency medics came to the home, but Shawn declined treatment, according to the lawsuit.
Around 8 a.m., Karin Riebe called again, this time in tears. She told the dispatcher her son was “sick” and “bipolar manic” and he had gotten out his gun and loaded it, telling her she was not welcome in the home and to get out.
She left the home and met with deputies about a half-block from the house. But according to the claim, they told Karin they could not intervene.
“They, ultimately, told her they couldn’t arrest (Shawn), that they had no probable cause to believe he had committed a crime, and they couldn’t put him on a mental hold,” says Lisa Benedetti, the attorney representing the Riebe estate. “They were not going to detain him, remove him from the house, even though he had threatened her with a deadly weapon.”
The lawsuit alleges one King County sergeant specifically referenced the new law HB 1310, saying “legislative changes were preventing them from getting him help.” The deputies reportedly told Karin to wait and not return home until her son had “cooled down.”
A deputy spoke to Shawn on the phone at length, the suit claims, but never met with him in person. During the call, Shawn denied having suicidal thoughts or plans to hurt anyone.
Around 10:30 a.m. more 911 calls came in from neighbors who reported screaming, yelling, pounding, and things being slammed around at the Riebe home. The lawsuit says Karin was in the garage hiding.
A deputy was dispatched but called off by a supervisor. Deputies spoke to Karin on the phone, where she reportedly told them she wanted them to get Shawn help “even if that means taking him out of here kicking and screaming.”
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But Benedetti says the the deputies again told Karin they were not going to make contact “since he had a gun, and this was a mental health situation.” They again advised Karin to “leave the house before Shawn hurts her” and wait until her son had “cooled off.”
Karin returned to the home around 1:30 p.m., where her son was waiting for her. As she attempted to enter the home, he fired 12 times, killing her and her dog. Shawn Riebe then engaged in a seven-hour standoff with law enforcement before he was arrested.
The complaint alleges the deputies had a duty to intervene according to the state of Washington’s domestic violence laws but failed to do so because of the passage of the use-of-force law. “King County deputies ignored their clear duties and instead weaponized HB 1310 as an excuse why they could not detain Shawn. According to Benedetti, “This law became a rallying cry for law enforcement departments around the state to claim their hands were tied in dealing with suspects in mental crisis like Shawn.”
In a statement to KIRO Newsradio, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said “KCSO is unable to comment at this time due to pending litigation.”