Deputies did not pursue Burien hit-and-run suspect before fatal crash

Feb 29, 2024, 8:32 AM | Updated: 12:29 pm

burien hit-and-run...

Burien Police responding to a crime scene on Feb. 13, 2023. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

King County deputies did not pursue a man before he allegedly sped down a neighborhood street in Burien, running a stop sign and killing another driver, according to court documents.

The documents, which include a detailed narrative from a detective with the King County Sheriff’s Office, said officers first spotted the suspect, Pedro Garcia, walking dogs near Sunset Park on Sunday before he got into a reportedly stolen Dodge Ram.

The deputies followed Garcia on South 138th Street without their emergency lights or sirens turned on. Garcia turned onto 22nd Avenue South and took off, going more than 50 mph in a 25 mph zone and running through a stop sign, according to detectives.

More on Wash. crime: Darrington woman admitted to authorities she killed her 5-year-old child

Just a couple minutes later, deputies spotted the stolen car crashed into a Jeep Grand Cherokee at South 128th Street and 22nd Avenue South. Immediately following the incident, deputies said they were “making plans to contact the truck driver” before he sped off. It’s not immediately clear as to what those plans were or why deputies did not pursue Garcia in this instance.

The Jeep’s driver was pronounced dead at the scene and a child in the back seat was “severely injured,” the court documents stated.

“The injured male child was taken to Harborview (Medical Center) with life-threatening injuries,” detectives wrote in the documents. “The male child later was diagnosed with severe skull fractures and (a) possible broken leg.”

A woman at the scene, identified as Garcia’s girlfriend, told deputies her dogs were in the Dodge and were stolen from her mother’s house. The woman reportedly showed deputies text messages from Garcia saying he crashed the truck and where she could find her dogs.

In a phone call set up using the girlfriend’s phone, deputies were apparently able to speak directly to Garcia, informing him the driver of the Jeep had died. Deputies said he promised to walk back and turn himself in. But after tracking surveillance camera footage and cell phone data, deputies ultimately found and arrested Garcia in a Toyota Camry near Tumwater.

More from Sam Campbell: Burien City Council member confronts homeless outside condo

He’s facing several felony charges for the alleged fatal hit-and-run, including vehicular homicide, adding to what prosecutors described as a history of criminal and traffic violations. According to the court documents, Garcia has had 21 lifetime warrants.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office pushed for him to be held on $500,000 bail. He’s awaiting his arraignment, scheduled for March 13.

Wash. Police Pursuit laws

Both House and Senate members discussed I-2113 on Wednesday, a bill that would loosen police pursuit restrictions. The police pursuit law was amended in 2023 after a different law increased the threshold for evidence required for a pursuit law two years prior. The 2023 amendment bill lowered the requirements for police to pursue a suspect, but only if there was “reasonable suspicion” and only for limited crimes. Those include violent offenses, sex offenses, escapes or DUIs, vehicular assaults and domestic violence.

Supporters of the initiative currently being discussed in Olympia have said the 2023 amendment is still not enough.

More on Wash. police pursuits: Police pursuit, parental rights initiatives go before Washington lawmakers

Garcia’s criminal history

At the time of this incident, prosecutors said Garcia was already under release conditions from a 2023 case where he tried to escape police. He had already violated conditions of his release twice, according to Casey McNerthney with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

“That’s part of why we made the bail argument,” McNerthney said. “Because any time you’ve got a high bail request, you got to show reasons for why you think that’s appropriate. That information that we showed – that he was in violation at the time of the incident – was a key part in making that high bail argument.”

Prosecutors pushed for Garcia to be held on $500,000 bail and a judge agreed.

“We thought that this is somebody who is a danger to the public and also a flight risk,” McNerthney added. “Prosecutors ‘want to prevent tragedies like this from happening.’ It’s just so tragic to be in this situation now with somebody who’s been killed, and we’re back in court with this defendant.”

You can read more of Sam Campbell’s stories here. Follow Sam Campbell on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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