Law
Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens in a Garfield High School football jersey.
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Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens in a Garfield High School football jersey.
Credit: Courtesy photo

King County deputies killed a Black teen in 2017. The investigation that followed was lacking, report says

A report released Tuesday has called for change in policy related to the King County Sheriff's Office's internal shooting investigations.

The agency said the report is flawed.

The report, initiated by the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, was presented to the County Council’s Law and Justice Committee.

It outlined the factors at play in the 2017 shooting death of Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens, a Black 17-year-old from Des Moines who was killed by officers during a sting operation gone wrong.

The incident triggered an investigation, but deputies went days before providing written accounts of the shooting. The supervisor who approved the undercover operation was never interviewed, the new inquiry found.

Dunlap-Gitten's parents, Alexis Dunlap and Frank Gittens, spoke before the committee. Both called for change.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about him," Gittens said. "I know there's a day that doesn't go by for him, in the life that he's in right now, that he doesn't think about us. I just want everybody to know that I miss him dearly."

The Sheriff's Office's own administrative review process had previously found 19 issues with the shooting and recommended reform as a result of the internal investigation. But the prescribed changes were allowed to “die on the vine," according to the new review.

Within the 43-page report are 43 recommendations Office of Law Enforcement Oversight strongly suggests be implemented by the Sheriff's Office.

“These are urgent recommendations that can reduce the likeliness of traumatic incidents for all involved,” Deborah Jacobs, director of Office of Law Enforcement Oversight told the law and justice committee.

In a letter to the Law and Justice Committee, Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht wrote that her office recognizes oversight importance, but that the report is flawed.

“The issues raised in this report are the subject of civil litigation and must be addressed in that process, in context, and with all the relevant information considered,” Johanknecht wrote. “This report is based on partial facts, and because of that, contains conclusions that are not factually supported.”

Last year Dunlap-Gittens' family filed a federal lawsuit against the deputies involved and King County for the its “failure to adequately train, supervise, and discipline its officers.”

According to the lawsuit, officers pretended to be a 15-year-old female in search of alcohol, and set up a meeting with a 16-year-old Black teen they were investigating.

Dunlap-Gittens tagged along with the person of interest and after coaxing the subject toward the van, deputies burst from an unmarked vehicle, the complaint states. Deputies shot at Dunlap-Gittens, hitting him at least eight times as he tried to run away.

Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens in a Garfield High School football jersey.
Enlarge Icon
Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens in a Garfield High School football jersey.
Credit: Courtesy photo


Before the report was published, the King County Police Officers Guild submitted a grievance to Johanknecht and labor relations. They disputed the sharing of the report and called it a breach of the status quo of the union’s expired contract, but also said it was in conflict with a tentative agreement on a new contract.

“[The Office of Law Enforcement Oversight] is prohibited at all times and, including but not limited to, issuing written or oral reports, from disclosing the names of other identifying information of employees or other individuals involved in incidents or investigations,” the union agreement states.

In the past, the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight has prepared systemic and annual reports. The union's objection is to the specific nature of the report and the type of information disclosed to the third party who commissioned the report, said Sgt. Ryan Abbott, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office.