In 18 months Clark County Sheriff’s deputies shot and killed three people unnecessarily, including an off-duty police officer.
One unnecessary killing is a tragedy. Three unnecessary killings is a pattern that needs fixing.
I’ve filed two wrongful death lawsuits for HLG against Clark County in two different officer-involved shootings. On October 29, 2020, Kevin Peterson Jr. was shot and killed by Clark County Sheriff’s Deputies as he ran away from a drug sting operation. On February 4, 2021, Clark County Sheriff’s Deputies shot and killed an unarmed motorist, Jenoah Donald, after an illegal pre-textual stop.
Then, in January of 2022, one of the deputies who needlessly shot at Kevin Peterson shot and killed an off-duty Vancouver Police Officer, apparently mistaking him for a criminal suspect.
Accumulating evidence shows, as I wrote in the lawsuits, “Clark County has a policy, custom, and established practice of failing to supervise and train its officers to use deadly force only as a last resort.”
There have been numerous protests and local and national media attention concerning the Clark County Sheriff’s Department’s unwarranted use of deadly force.
Like his father, Kevin Peterson Jr. played football for Union High School in Vancouver, Clark County. At the time of his death, he was a 21 years old. He was a popular kid with no criminal record.
Clark County Sheriff’s Deputies set up a sting to arrest Kevin for allegedly agreeing to sell 50 Xanax pills to an informant. Deputies set up the potentially dangerous operation in the parking lot of a Quality Inn on or about October 29, 2020, during peak traffic hours of 5:00 and 6:00 pm. Amazingly, deputies did not have the permission of the open business to use their property. Additionally, deputies did not take steps to insure the safety of the surrounding public.
At some point, Kevin realized he had been set up. His car was blocked in by deputies. He opened his door and ran. In his pockets were a cell phone and a gun. Something fell out of his pocket, but he picked it back up and kept running.
He did not say or do anything threatening to surrounding deputies. The deputies did not attempt to tackle or shoot him.
After running out of the Quality Inn parking lot, Kevin cut through some property, and then crossed into a U.S. Bank parking lot. Though the bank branch was closed, he was picked up on surveillance video. He can be seen on video walking with a cell phone as he FaceTimes his girlfriend Olivia.
She could tell he was scared and panicked. He was still trying to evade the deputies. Suddenly he spotted deputies arriving in front of him. He turned and ran.
“They’re shooting at me,” he told Olivia.
Hit by shots from behind, he fell. He sat up on the concrete and pointed his cellphone in the direction of the officers to show Olivia what was happening. There was another volley of shots. He went back down.
Deputies fired 34 rounds in two volleys. Three rounds hit Kevin as he was running away. One hit him in the chest when he sat up. He died at the scene from the gunshot wounds.
Detective Robert Anderson was the first to shoot. In a recorded interview given eight days after the killing, Detective Anderson, accompanied by a lawyer, explained why he shot a suspect who was running away. “I kinda just drew a line in the sand and I was – I said, ‘I’ve given suspect enough commands. If he takes another step, I’m gonna shoot him.’ Um, he continued to run. I started shooting.”
Deputy Jonathan Feller was the second officer to shoot at Mr. Peterson. Deputy Fuller, unlike Detective Anderson, was not a part of the drug task force. He was on patrol when he heard radio traffic referring to a “black male with a gun running south on Highway 99.” Deputy Feller took it upon himself to turn around and race full lights and sirens toward the action.
In a recorded interview given 11 days after the killing, Deputy Feller, accompanied by a lawyer, said he stepped out of his vehicle at the scene and, “I immediately drew my – my handgun …” He pointed his gun at Mr. Peterson and began yelling commands to stop running.
Deputy Feller fired his weapon within seconds of exiting his vehicle and before he had a tactical understanding of the situation.
In an eerily similar scenario a year later, Deputy Feller arrived at a scene and started shooting within four seconds. This time he shot and killed Vancouver Police Officer Donald Sohata.
After the Peterson killing, Clark County did not terminate, discipline, or even re-train Deputy Feller. Had the county done so, Officer Sohata would likely still be alive.
About three months after Kevin’s death, Jenoah Donald was pulled over in what’s known as a “pretextual stop,” where an officer uses a pretext to pull someone over when the officer lacks probable cause. A “defective rear light” was the pretext.
Two deputies were involved in the stop. One of the deputies was a rookie. Jenoah was cooperating with the senior deputy who did not see any weapons in Jenoah’s car. The rookie deputy, however, mistakenly thought she saw a weapon and freaked out.
From there, the deputies made numerous mistakes, demonstrating either a lack of training or lack of understanding. When Jenoah did not immediately exit the vehicle, the senior deputy made the inexplicable and dangerous error of immediately trying to drag Jenoah out of the car.
Jenoah was on the autism spectrum, and the deputies made no effort to communicate with him. The senior deputy even admits punching Jenoah in the nose without provocation.
Jenoah passively resisted the assault and somehow the car was bumped into gear and rolled forward. The senior deputy stepped back out of the car, pulled his gun, and shot at Jenoah twice. The second round hit Jenoah in the side of the head. He died a week later.
Jenoah’s wrongful death case, like Kevin Peterson’s case, received wide media attention, including Oregon Public Broadcasting, The Oregonian, the Columbian, The New York Times, and local television. Unfortunately, it’s a textbook example of what happens when officers over react and unnecessarily escalate a situation.
Law enforcement officers have a challenging job. It’s not for everyone. It requires training, discipline, people skills, and a true spirit of public service. I’ve known many officers who have these traits. Those who do not should look for another line of work.
Clark County is failing the community by not properly training officers in de-escalation, non-lethal tactics, decision-making, behavioral health issues, and the use of deadly force only as a last resort. After killing Jenoah Donald, Kevin Peterson, and Officer Sahota, the Clark County Sheriff’s Department has three strikes.
Sometimes I’m asked why the deputies aren’t facing criminal charges. The answer is that criminal and civil standards are dramatically different. In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove criminal conduct beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, a plaintiff’s attorney only needs to prove it’s more likely than not the defendant was negligent.
When asked by a reporters what she hoped for from the lawsuits, a victim family member said, “One of my hopes is that the truth and justice comes out, people are held accountable, things change.”
That’s our plan.
On March 24, 2022, I filed a $10 million dollar claim against Seattle for the wrongful death of William Yurek. At Herrmann Law Group, I represent Mr. Yurek’s adult daughter and the mother of his three minor children.
This was a tragic and preventable death that serves as a cautionary tale.
Mr. Yurek’s 13-year-old son did the important things right to save his father. Seattle, unfortunately, did the important things wrong.
On November 2, 2021, at 1:24 pm, Yurek’s son called 911 because his father was having a medical emergency at home. The 46-year-old Yurek had chest pains and difficulty breathing.
Medics arrived six minutes later. This is quick. They did not enter the residence, however, because they were told to wait for a police escort. Yurek was mistakenly on a outdated blacklist for hostility to first responders. A previous tenant had been on the list, but Yurek should not have been. The blacklist was outdated.
At 1:37 pm, Yurek’s son called 911 a second time, more desperate. His father’s condition was worsening. About 1:40 pm, medics decided to ignore the order to wait for police. They entered Yurek’s residence and applied a defibrillator and started CPR, but too late. Yurek died of a heart attack in front of his young son.
“When you’re keeping a list people’s lives depend upon, that list needs to be accurate and up to date,” I told reporters. “Seattle screwed up.”
Police arrived at the scene about 15 minutes after the first call. Due primarily to decisions from city officials, the Seattle Police Department was significantly understaffed. Firefighters and officers told reporters police would have been at the scene sooner but for the staffing shortage.
“People need to know how the city let this happen,” said Meagan Petersen, Yurek’s ex-wife and mother of his three minor children. “They could have saved Will if the system was working like it should.”
Meagan is correct. Medical experts believe Yurek had a good chance of survival if medics had been able to treat him as soon as they arrived.
In addition to his ex-wife and three minor children, Yurek is survived by his adult daughter Brooklyn.
Brooklyn told reporters her father taught her how to ride a bike, tie her shoes, and to appreciate art. She attributes her own artistic talent to him. She wants an apology and acknowledgment from the city that, “Their system is failing.”
You can hear the 911 calls in the Q13 story, including the erroneous assertion that Yurek was a danger to first responders, a mistake from the outdated blacklist. Almost all of the local media covered the story, including KOMO TV, Seattle Times, and local radio, including Jason Rantz, Ari Hoffmann, and John Carlson.
Rantz broke the story initially and it was picked up nationally, including by the New York Post and Associated Press. Many outlets used it as an example of dysfunction in Seattle and other cities.
The family is grateful for the medics who tried to save Will’s life. They understand city officials are to blame.
By the way, a civil claim is a necessary legal prelude to a lawsuit against a government entity in Washington State. Sixty days after filing the claim, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed if the claim is not resolved.
Please check back here as we move toward justice for the family. And, as always, please let me know if I can ever help with anything.
Back to Jakarta. This could be a book title. Instead, it’s a work trip to one of my favorite places in the world.
Beyond Jakarta could be another book title. Instead, it’s our itinerary. We have clients on Borneo and Bangka Islands as well as Jakarta. Working for justice sometimes requires travel.
After our success at Herrmann Law Group settling cases for 46 victim families in the aviation disaster of Lion Air JT 610, we signed up 17 victim families so far in the crash of Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ 182. While the circumstances of SJ 182 crash are different than JT 610, the common theme is a Boeing plane and insufficient warnings from Boeing about the dangers.
I filed the complaint two weeks ago and it was covered by Q13 TV, the Seattle Times, Fox Business News, KOMO TV, and numerous other outlets. The Tacoma Weekly ran the longest story, which is posted below unexpurgated. They used an old photo of me so you might want to click the Tacoma Weekly story for a semi-amusing flash to the past.
Today, April 15, the Herrmann Law Group filed a lawsuit against The Boeing Company on behalf of the families of 16 victims who died Jan. 9, 2021, in the crash of Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ 182.
All 62 people on board the Boeing 737-500 died, including 12 crew members and seven children.
As the plane was ascending from Soekarno–Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, the left engine throttle moved back while the right lever did not, suggesting the auto-throttle was stuck, according to the Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee (“KNKT”). This unequal thrust caused a roll and dive. The plane dropped 10,900 feet in 22 seconds, a screaming descent that ended in the Java Sea.
Herrmann Law Group’s complaint, which was filed in King County Superior Court, contends Boeing equipment failed. Further, Boeing failed to warn airlines and other users about defects in the auto-throttle and the dangers of parking a plane for several months.
The law firm, which has offices in Tacoma and Seattle, successfully sued Boeing in the crash of Lion Air JT 610, which also dove into the Java Sea near Jakarta.
“We’re seeking justice in the United States for Indonesian citizens as our judicial system works for everyone,” said Lara Herrmann of the Herrmann firm. “We’ve proven this before and we will prove it again.”
On March 23, 2020, Sriwijaya Air’s 26-year-old Boeing plane was parked due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of other 737 planes around the world were parked as well. This created an unprecedented challenge for maintenance. As the pandemic subsides, these parked planes will be going back into service to carry millions of passengers around the world.
Recognizing the potential danger, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) issued an emergency airworthiness directive for Boeing 737 planes on July 24, 2020. The FAA warned of possible corrosion from parking a plane for more than seven days and ordered U.S. airlines flying Boeing 737 airplanes to not operate the planes until inspected and any corroded valves were replaced.
After being certified by the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation, the Sriwijaya plane resumed passenger service on December 19, 2020. In the three weeks before the crash, the plane rapidly logged 132 flights.
In addition to problems caused by extended parking of the plane, and insufficient warnings and instructions from Boeing, the Boeing auto-throttle computer software has a history of significant issues.
In 2001, the FAA became aware of a design defect and ordered operators of the 737 aircraft to replace the automatic throttle computer after reports of unequal thrust, which could cause loss of control of the aircraft.
Six years later, in two separate flights, the auto-throttle on 737 aircraft inexplicably shut off as planes were approaching airports to land. In both instances, pilots were able to recover and avoided accidents. However, in 2009, a Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-800 crashed on its approach to Amsterdam Airport when the auto-throttle malfunctioned. Nine people died.
Four years later, on July 6, 2013, a Boeing 777 crashed on its approach to San Francisco International Airport when the auto-throttle failed to maintain speed. Three people died. The National Transportation and Safety Board investigators found Boeing failed to make provide clear warnings and instructions regarding the auto-throttle.
In the days leading up to the fatal flight of SJ 182, pilots reported problems with the auto-throttle. KNKT investigator Nurcayho Utomo said, “There was a report of malfunction on the auto-throttle a couple of days before to the technician in the maintenance log, but we do not know what kind of problem.”
Both the Flight Data Recorder (“FDR”) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (“CVR”) have been recovered and are being analyzed by the KNKT.
As an airplane manufacturer, Boeing has a continuing duty to warn and instruct airlines on dangers the manufacturer knows of or should know of regarding the plane.
“This is a major public safety issue,” said Mark Lindquist, lead attorney on the case for the Herrmann Law Group. “Thousands of planes were parked during the pandemic and they are coming back into service for millions of passengers. Commercial jets are not usually parked for long periods. This unprecedented situation requires the parked planes be inspected, fixed as necessary, and certified as safe.”
Herrmann Law Group represented 50 victim families in two recent crashes of Boeing 737 Max 8’s in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Nearly all of those cases have been successfully settled with Boeing. The amounts are confidential, but it has been reported that individual cases settled in the millions of dollars.
In the two crashes of the Boeing 737 Max, first in Indonesia in 2018 and then in Ethiopia in 2019, a software program, “MCAS,” was to blame. Sriwijaya’s Boeing 737-500 was not equipped with the MCAS. There are similarities between those lawsuits and the SJ 182 suit, however, as Boeing is again charged with failing to give adequate warnings and notice regarding known dangers.
“Years of experience representing hundreds of victims has shown me a common thread in most air disaster cases,” said Charles Herrmann, the principle of Herrmann Law. “Generating profits in a fiercely competitive market too often involves short-cutting safety measures. We are prepared to vigorously fight this case all the way, including to trial. Our clients are fortunate to have a highly experienced and accomplished trial attorney like Mark Lindquist working the case.”
Lindquist, the former elected Prosecutor of Pierce County, has tried several high-profile cases in Washington State, including the murder of Special Olympian Kimmie Daly and the Tacoma Mall shooting. He also filed a lawsuit against Big Pharma. In January of 2019, he joined Herrmann Law Group and litigated the Lion Air cases with Charles Herrmann.
The Tacoma Weekly ran a cover story on Lindquist’s successful transition to private practice and his public safety legacy as Prosecutor. Herrmann Law’s gain was Pierce County’s loss.
For decades, Herrmann Law has been internationally renowned as a premier firm for aviation litigation. In 1983, Charles Herrmann represented 89 victim families who lost loved ones when a Russian fighter jet shot down a commercial flight, KAL flight 007. This international incident served as a basis for a book and a movie, “Shootdown.”
The Herrmann Law Group, founded in 1950 by former State Senator and State Insurance Commissioner Karl Herrmann, is a personal injury firm with offices in Seattle and Tacoma. In addition to aviation cases, they handle wrongful death, civil rights, excessive force, and other instances of personal injury.
Kris Brannon, a.k.a. Sonics Guy, died on February 11, 2021, from a heart attack. He was a good friend, a loyal supporter, and a local treasure. My wife and daughter also adored him. I wrote this tribute for my Facebook page.
“You do a pretty good impression of yourself.”
This is the first line of Lunar Park, a novel by Bret Easton Ellis. I shared this line with Kris. We were having a beer at an event as we often did. Though he was almost always upbeat, he had periods of introspection.
He reveled in his role as Sonics Guy and also saw the weird side of being a public figure and, occasionally, it unsettled him. When I quoted Lunar Park, he got it and laughed.
Public figures are Rorschach tests. People project qualities onto them. As Anais Nin said, we see the world not as it is, but as we are. This is how people see public figures as well. I don’t think I talked him into reading the book, but he was intrigued Bret wrote a novel about the funhouse mirrors of fame.
In a different conversation, also over beers at an event, he confessed he sometimes thought about running for office. I said, “Thinking about it is okay. It’s like crime. Only a problem if you actually try to do it.” He never did. He was involved – he served as emcee at more of my events than I can count – but he chose to be a champion of causes rather than a candidate.
Kris did things intentionally. He chose to be generous. He chose to be upbeat. He chose to be a loyal friend.
We returned to the issue of celebrity when Kris thought he was going to be the subject of adverse publicity. I advised him what my editor – also Bret’s editor – advised me about publicity. Don’t read it. Good or bad. Kris listened and asked for a favor. I did it, of course. Later, he thanked me more effusively than was warranted, which made me wish I could do more for him.
I felt sick when I heard Kris died. Just before I flew to Jakarta in February of 2020, Chelsea and I had dinner with him. Sloane, arguably his biggest fan, joined us. Kris made her laugh.
Afterward, Kris and I agreed we would gather at Devil’s Reef with Jack Cameron when I returned from Indonesia. I owed them both drinks. Instead, Covid kicked in, the city shut down, and the dinner with Chelsea and Sloane was the last significant time I spent with Kris.
I did see him on occasion though. As I drove down 6th Avenue there he would be, walking and waving to folks and I would want to shout, “You do a pretty good impression of yourself.”
Never Mind Nirvana, my third published novel, was set in the music scene of Seattle. This was an era when local bands became the focus of international attention.
Seattle, which had been sort of a cool secret, was suddenly famous. As Mark Arm of Mudhoney sang, “Everybody loves us. Everybody loves our town.”
There was the Seattle sound, the Seattle books, the Seattle movies, the Seattle-based Starbucks. Our rainy city had its day in the sun.
Eighteen years after Nirvana played “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on “Saturday Night Live,” Seattle is once again in a hot spotlight.
On June 8, Seattle Police deserted their East Precinct building in Capitol Hill. Police Chief Carmen Best publicly denied giving the order. Nobody has owned the decision yet. As John F. Kennedy said, “Success has many friends. Failure is an orphan.”
Once the police vacated the precinct, the city ceded a six-block section of businesses and apartments. The area became known as CHOP, or the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest. There were other acronyms as well, such as CHAZ, Capital Hill Autonomous Zone, but the media mostly went with CHOP.
On June 20, Lorenzo Anderson was hanging out in the CHOP area when he was shot multiple times. He was nineteen. There were witnesses and videos. Everyone is a videographer these days, a boon to accountability.
Seattle Fire Department and police personnel knew Anderson was shot and in need of medical assistance. He was, in fact, bleeding to death. One video circulating on social media shows a man yelling at SFD medics sitting in an ambulance.
“You guys could be saving this man’s life right now…. You could be saving his life…. Sir, please explain, what’s going on? He’s dying. He needs your help.”
Lorenzo never received medical assistance from the SFD medics who were staged about a block and half away. Instead, civilians drove him to Harborview Medical Center in the back of a pickup truck roughly 20 minutes later. He died there.
Lara Herrmann and I filed a claim against the City of Seattle, King County, and Washington State for this wrongful death.
The city made numerous mistakes. Our claim is focused on two. One, Seattle officials created a dangerous environment, and two, city personnel failed to medically assist Anderson. There was no plan to provide essential services into CHOP, or at least not a working plan.
On one day the Mayor framed CHOP as a “summer of love,” and on another day city officials claimed the area was too dangerous for police and fire department personnel to do their jobs. Nobody was on the same page. Everyone had their own political agenda.
Our claim is a legal prelude to a lawsuit. We represent Lorenzo’s mother. Our goal is justice for Lorenzo’s family, accountability for the city, and answers for all of us.
There is still much to learn. Four TV stations covered the story, including Q13 and KOMO. Sara Jean Green at The Seattle Times also covered it, as did Matt Nagle at the Tacoma paper, The TW. I went on air with Dori Monson, Kirby Wilbur, and other radio stations. National media picked up the narrative and ran in a variety of directions, as the media is wont to do.
Ashley Hiruko at KUOW, a local NPR affiliate, ran a story on how the Seattle Police Department and Fire Department miscommunicated with each other the night Lorenzo was shot. Protestors were begging the SFD medics to come in for Lorenzo, but SFD’s confused communication with SPD contributed to the paralysis.
Trouble in CHOP was foreseeable, but city officials lacked the foresight.
After Lorenzo was shot, there were four more shootings and five more victims in CHOP, including a dead 14-year-old boy.
After police finally reclaimed their own precinct, and the abandoned area, the Seattle City Council voted to largely defund the police. The Mayor vetoed the bill. Oh, and Chief Best quit.
Stay tuned as this story continues. More claims and lawsuits have been filed, including one by local business owners and residents of the area formerly known as CHOP.
Meanwhile, as you likely know, I’ve been with Herrmann Law Group, a personal injury firm, since January of 2019. For my first year, I was primarily focused on our lawsuits against Boeing for the two crashes of the Boeing 737 Max 8. There have been numerous stories, and 60 Minutes Australia was one of the best. Many of the cases have since settled.
We still have work to do on our cases against Boeing, but this year I’m also working on a variety of other equally just causes. Please let me know if I can ever be of legal assistance to you, your family, or friends.
I’m continually pleased by the parallels between prosecution and personal injury work — pursuing justice, holding bad actors accountable, and helping people.
Photograph by Alex Mertz
After I returned from Jakarta and Tokyo in late February, I went into a 14-day quarantine because of the coronavirus, a.k.a. COVID-19. About the time I was ready to return to our office at Herrmann Law Group, life changed. For safety, everyone at HLG started working from home. I already was.
One of my carryovers from the Prosecutor’s Office is Bill Bilichek’s mantra, “Do your job.” That’s what we are doing at HLG. Serving clients, accepting clients, and carrying on, albeit remotely. As I write this, I’ve been working at home for about seven weeks.
In early March, Governor Inslee issued a stay at home order for the entire state, which stays in effect until May 4, at least. I hear we should prepare for a long haul. The order will likely be extended in May, though restrictions will be scaled back.
If you’re also working at home, I hope you find it useful as well as entertaining. If you’re not working at home, see what you are missing.
Later, I posted the article on my blog, but an updated version that went out to the Tacoma Pierce County Bar Association, a.k.a. lawyers. In my blog post I add an eleventh tip in the spirit of Spinal Tap.
Also on my author blog, you can read the latest updates on our Lion Air lawsuit against Boeing. You can also find Lion Air updates in the news section of this site. We are making remarkable progress on behalf of 46 victim families.
Last year we filed the first vaping lawsuit in Washington State. That case is also moving forward. Vaping has fallen off the media map, as most everything has during this Covid19 crisis, but we are continuing to sign clients who have been injured from vaping.
As always, please let me know if I can help you with anything. I continue to enjoy the transition from local safety to global safety. As I told CNN, it’s about justice, accountability, and helping people.
Meanwhile, we come together by staying apart. Call me, FaceTime me, connect on social media.
Stay safe and remember: the Renaissance followed the Bubonic Plague.
Statecraft is one of those semi-obscure words I like. Merriam-Webster defines statecraft as “the art” of governing.
We need more art in our politics. As President John F. Kennedy said, “If more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place to live.”
Meanwhile, I’ve joined the vast majority of Americans who mostly tune out politics. In the past, I often quoted Russell Wilson who said, in response to negative chatter, “Tune out the noise.”
This year, I’ve tuned out the noise, the static, and almost the entire cacophony.
Partly this is because I am busy. I’m honored to be litigating one of the biggest public safety cases in the world. At Herrmann Law Group, we represent 46 victim families against Boeing in the crash of Lion Air Flight JT 610 out of Jakarta, Indonesia. The media attention has been international for good reason, including Sixty Minutes Australia.
We have settled some of our cases, but there is still much work to do. As I shared with CNN, our goal is “Justice for the victims, accountability for Boeing, and safer skies for everyone.”
We also filed the first vaping lawsuit in Washington and we are busy on a variety of other cases, including wrongful deaths, civil rights, and other personal injury matters.
Still, I could find time to tune in politics. On the rare occasions I do though, I end up shaking my head. For example, locally, there is the mayoral race in DuPont. One blogger, “Ranger Dave,” wrote the race has “created hate, divisiveness, and an ugliness that I have only seen on a national level.” The author has not attended many Pierce County political party meetings if he’s only seen this on a national level. I am nonetheless sympathetic to his point.
I admit I do not know anything substantive about the race in DuPont. I do know Mayor Courts in the way elected officials tend to know each other. He is an honorable man, a good guy, and an effective public official. These are qualities that once mattered in politics.
There was also a time when the mainstream media might endeavor to clear the water rather than dump more mud, but not these days. A Tacoma News Tribune editor candidly advised me she did not particularly care if a story was true. She lost her job, as did an ethically-challenged colleague of hers, but I was told it was due to lack of web clicks rather than lack of honesty.
That said, I know journalists who share my belief the truth matters even if it doesn’t generate clicks, the dialogue needs to be elevated, and we all play a part. I also know public officials who share this belief.
Staying above the fray may not be good political strategy these days, but it is good life strategy almost always.
Some of the highest praise I’ve received, in my mind, was from The Tacoma Weekly in a cover story about my transition from public service to private practice. “He brought bipartisanship, civility, and integrity to the job.” This is a trifecta of worthy goals, even if temporarily out of fashion.
I do not think I am alone in missing the artful, high-minded rhetoric of Presidents Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and John F. Kennedy. Obama rejected the division of blue states and red states in favor of “the United States.” Reagan spoke about the United States as a “shining city on a hill.” And Kennedy urged us to focus on “what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.”
While a few of my brethren in the Democratic Party do not share my admiration of Reagan as a communicator, I still remember his healing speech to the nation after seven astronauts died in the Challenger disaster.
“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.'”
As a writer, I must acknowledge that Peggy Noonan wrote the speech and the language in quotes is from a poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Reagan, the “Great Communicator,” said, “I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things. They didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation, from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries.”
This is one of the things generally missing from our dialogue today: great things, great ideas. Both the media and candidates are too often mired in the small. This keeps many away from the media and politics. Alienation, in turn, worsens the problem.
Governor Jay Inslee ran a noble presidential campaign on a great idea — the need to defeat climate change. He dropped out after failing to penetrate the noise. As novelist Kurt Vonnegut would say, “So it goes.”
I am ever optimistic and believe we will eventually rise above the Balkanization, tribalism, fake news, and general noise of our current moment. For evidence, I cite our history of periodic backsliding as we move inexorably forward.
Mark Twain said, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uniformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.” This is even funnier and truer today, except you have to add in television and Twitter and Facebook and so on.
The truth is out there, as the tagline for the television show X Files says. The problem is it takes work to find it and we are all busy.
Meanwhile, please support people who believe in statecraft and are willing to serve.
We filed the first vaping lawsuit in Washington State last month. Our client, a police officer and Army veteran, was the picture of fitness and good health before vaping landed him in the hospital for three days.
Additional clients are signing up with us for legal representation. If you or someone you know was injured from vaping, please contact me at Herrmann Law Group.
As I told Dori Monson, marijuana has became as mainstream as beer and bourbon. So it needs to be regulated the same way we regulate everything else we consume. If you’re buying something in a state-licensed store, it ought to be safe.
Right now, it’s the Wild West out there. Marijuana is the new gold rush and regulators have not caught up to the emerging industry.
I have long supported the legalization of marijuana. When I was the elected Prosecutor of Pierce County, we dismissed all of our pending marijuana cases immediately after marijuana was legalized in Washington. Further, we began vacating old marijuana convictions. I think it should be legal. I also think it should be safe.
When you buy booze in a store, you know it’s not moonshine. Whether you’re buying Makers Mark or Muscatel, you know what you’re getting. Same should be true of marijuana.
As reported in The Tacoma Weekly, our goals with the lawsuit are “justice for our client, accountability for the culprits, and a safer product.”
Friends in the marijuana industry sent me this informative article from Leafly about the hazards of the vaping market. This is real investigative work by Bruce Barcott, David Downs, and Dave Howard.
Every significant news outlet in the Puget Sound region covered our news conference, including all four television stations, The Seattle Times, and Matt Nagle at local news leader The Tacoma Weekly. National news outlets also picked up the story, including U.S. News & World Report.
A few days after our lawsuit was filed, Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order to increase regulation of vaping products. His order was controversial, but I’m confident safety is his concern. As the Governor said, “We are interested in ensuring that adults and young people have known and regulated ingredients in vaping products.”
Meanwhile, I’m continuing to work on our lawsuits against Boeing for the two crashes of the 737 Max 8. We currently represent 44 victims of the Lion Air JT 610 crash in Indonesia and four of the victim families from the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
I’ve spent significant time this year in Indonesia getting to know our clients, their country, and the culture. I’ve also spent time in Chicago mediating with Boeing. This may be the most interesting and intense year of my professional life.
I have been blessed to do so much good work on safety issues as a prosecutor and now as a personal injury attorney. In case you missed it, here is a smart article about the transition from public service to private practice.
Some news is fake, but it is still cool to wake up in Jakarta and see your case on the front page of The New York Times next to a story about Bret Ellis, a fine writer and friend of many years. The NYT, which still employs fact-checkers, got both stories right.
I am honored to to be meeting, learning about, and representing many of the victim families from the crash of Lion Air JT 610. I have spent most of 2019 in Indonesia. The victim families deserve lawyers who care about them and will fight for them. They have that.
In May, I was in Chicago where we filed our lawsuit against Boeing in federal court.
“Liability will not truly be in dispute here. Boeing is at fault. Their equipment failed. Their planes crashed twice,” Mark Lindquist, an attorney with the Herrmann Law Group who is representing the families of 26 victims of the Lion Air crash, told Yahoo Finance.
I also did an interview with 60 Minutes Australia as part of an excellent feature about the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. The New York Times has run several solid stories about the aircraft, the crashes, and the surrounding circumstances.
Local papers generally do not have the resources or talent to do true investigative reporting, resorting to gossip-mongering instead, but Dominic Gates of The Seattle Times has written several well-researched, fact-based articles. He covered the filing of our initial lawsuit.
The story of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 is a cautionary tale about putting profits before people.
On March 10, 2019, a second, nearly new, Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed. This time it was Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302. The circumstances were eerily similar to the Lion Air crash. The same plane, the same defective equipment, the same fatal dive.
At HLG, we are also representing victim families from the Ethiopian Airlines crash. We have a head start with our experience and knowledge from working on the Lion Air crash.
The 737 MAX 8 has a new computer system, the MCAS, that essentially takes control of the aircraft from the pilots. The MCAS forces the nose down if it senses the plane may stall. In both of these crashes, the MCAS apparently incorrectly sensed a stall and forced the nose down into a fatal dive.
Preliminary reports from both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crash indicate that the pilots fought with the MCAS. You can see it in the flight patterns. The computer forced the nose down, the pilots brought the nose up, the computer forced the nose back down, the pilots brought it back up … until the computer overpowered the pilots.
At an international press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, I likened the MCAS to HAL, the villainous computer in the Stanley Kubrick movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey. I saw nodding heads. Fortunately there were movie aficionados in the audience.
So why was the MCAS installed?
Aeronautical engineers believe the 737, which had an excellent safety record prior to these two crashes, became an unstable plane when the engines were moved forward. The MCAS was designed to remedy this instability.
So why were the engines moved forward at the expense of the plane’s airworthiness?
Because the business minds of Boeing, according to Forbes and other sources, believed they needed a more fuel-efficient jet to compete with AirBus, a French aircraft manufacturer. The goal of a more fuel-efficient aircraft makes sense. The problem is the plane was rushed into service and carrying passengers before it was safe.
Boeing did not fully inform pilots, the airlines, or even the FAA of the potential dangers posed by the MCAS. The manufacture downplayed the dramatic changes to the 737 for fear the information would negatively impact sales.
In other words, it all comes down to profits.
For more information on the Boeing 737 MAX and our lawsuits, check the HLG website and stay tuned to my professional Facebook page and personal Facebook page. I am also sharing stories on the blog of my author website.
I’m grateful for this fitting transition from local safety to global safety.
Back in the U.S. after more than a month working in Jakarta and on Bangka Island in Indonesia.
State Senator and WA State Insurance Commissioner Karl Herrmann founded the firm in 1950. His son Charles Herrmann and granddaughter Lara grew the firm further. We a personal injury firm that handles everything from aviation disasters to car crashes.
One of the firm’s more famous cases was featured in the movie “Tailspin.” Chuck represented 89 families of victims from Korean Airlines Flight 007, which was shot down by a Russian fighter jet. He won millions for the families.
My commitment to justice, accountability, and the public good continues.
Oh, and yes, I have been writing, too. I will keep you posted on my author blog.
In Indonesia, I became enamored with the culture, reading authors such as Pramoedya Anata Toer. Also, I started James Michener’s memoir, “The World is My Home.”
As Rudyard Kipling said, “This is a brief life, but in its brevity it offers some splendid moments, memorable adventures.”
I posted pictures from Indonesia on my Instagram page, which is my primary form of social media these days.
I will be returning to Indonesia as there is more work to be done. The families from the Lion Air crash are heartbroken. They deserve vigorous representation.