Detective who shot Hells Angel sues, says Seattle police mishandled case
A Seattle police detective who shot a member of the Hells Angels motorcycle club in Sturgis, S.D., in 2008 has filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department, alleging the department disparaged him and negligently provided false information that led to his indictment on a perjury charge.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A Seattle police detective who shot a member of the Hells Angels motorcycle club in South Dakota in 2008 has filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department, alleging the department disparaged him and negligently provided false information that led to his indictment on a perjury charge.
The suit, filed Monday, stems from an incident during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in which Ronald Smith said he shot and wounded a Hells Angel in self-defense during a bar fight on Aug. 9, 2008.
Smith, who was in Sturgis with members of the Iron Pigs, a motorcycle club composed of law-enforcement officers and firefighters, was charged in Meade County, S.D., Circuit Court with the felonies of aggravated assault and perjury. He also was charged with a misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.
Prosecutors alleged Smith perjured himself when he claimed he had used a personal firearm, when records obtained from the Seattle Police Department revealed the gun had been issued by the department.
But the perjury charge was dismissed less than a month after the incident after Seattle police discovered the gun Smith used was not a department-issued gun, but was one he bought from the Seattle Police Athletic Association in 1996.
Prosecutors in South Dakota later dismissed the assault and concealed-weapon charges, saying that it appeared Smith had been the victim of a premeditated attack and that federal law allows off-duty law-enforcement officers to carry weapons anywhere they choose.
The lawsuit alleges that if not for the Seattle Police Department's negligent and erroneous actions regarding gun ownership, Smith would not have been charged with perjury and, most likely, the other charges "since the South Dakota officials would have believed his statements absent his alleged perjury."
The suit contends a Seattle police commander could have taken routine steps to check the ownership of the gun, including a federal gun trace.
Smith's reputation was harmed by the criminal charges, according to the suit.
The suit also alleges that shortly after the incident, former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said at a public-relations event attended by Smith's fellow officers that Smith was an "embarrassment" to the department and would "not be working for him [Kerlikowske] much longer."
Kimberly Mills, spokeswoman for the Seattle City Attorney's Office, declined to comment, saying her office was reviewing the suit.
Smith declined to comment.
His suit seeks damages of $150,000 for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as other damages for specific costs and any further relief deemed to be just.
Sgt. Rich O'Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, said Smith was treated as "guilty until proven innocent," especially by Kerlikowske.
"We wouldn't be here" if the Police Department acknowledged their role in Smith's ordeal, O'Neill said. "They've never apologized, never admitted to him that they made a mistake. There was a snowballing effect of just treating him horribly."
The Hells Angel who was shot, Joseph McGuire, pleaded no contest to simple assault last year as part of a plea agreement in which the judge suspended a one-year jail sentence if McGuire stayed out of trouble and didn't attend that year's rally, The Associated Press reported.
Seattle Times staff reporters Sara Jean Green and Jennifer Sullivan contributed to this story, which includes information from Seattle Times archives.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or email@example.com
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.