Detective Richard Rowe was captured on motorcyclist Alex Randall's GoPro pulling a gun during an off-duty traffic stop last year.
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Detective Richard Rowe was captured on motorcyclist Alex Randall's GoPro pulling a gun during an off-duty traffic stop last year.
Credit: Alex Randall/YouTube

Motorcyclist confronted by off-duty detective with a gun sues King County

A motorcyclist who had a gun pulled on him by an off-duty King County Sheriff's Office detective during a traffic stop last year is suing the county and the detective for excessive force.

Detective Richard Rowe, whose interaction with motorcyclist Alex Randall was captured by Randall's GoPro, claimed that he was holding the gun in a "low-ready" position. But in December, the King County Sheriff's Office determined otherwise: that Rowe did point the gun at Randall. Still, the same internal investigation concluded that Rowe did not use excessive force.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office also declined to charge Rowe with a crime.

Detective Rowe's interaction with Randall was widely publicized on Randall's YouTube channel. King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht chose to suspend Rowe for five days—half of what the King County Sheriff's Office internal investigations unit recommended.

Chris Carney, the attorney representing Randall, told KUOW that despite the Sheriff's Office findings, federal case law supported the claim that pointing a gun at someone constitutes force.

"In this case, there was force used, there was no lawful justification for it, and it was excessive in relation to any lawful purpose," Carney said.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of Western Washington, alleges that in addition to the claim of excessive force, the county failed to adequately train its police officers and supervise Rowe.

A spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office said that the office hadn't been aware of the allegations in the lawsuit until Wednesday.

"We will be evaluating the claims in this complaint and working with the Prosecutor’s Office to decide next steps," Sgt. Ryan Abbott said.