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caption: Andrea Thomas Churna attending a sports game.
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Andrea Thomas Churna attending a sports game.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Andrea Churna's family

No filing decision yet, in case of Redmond Police killing of Andrea Churna

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has completed their review of an investigation into what happened last year when Redmond Police fatally shot Andrea Thomas Churna, after she called police for help.

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t’s been 14 months since Churna’s death in September 2020, but Douglas Wagoner, spokesperson with the prosecuting attorney’s office, said no final decision has been made on whether criminal charges will be filed against the officers involved.

Instead, the King County prosecutor’s office referred the case for a coroner’s inquest hearing, a process reinstated by the Washington Supreme Court in July. The prosecuting attorney’s office will reassess the case afterward, Wagoner said.

Since the state Supreme Court's decision, inquests are now required after every death caused by law enforcement in King County. Wagoner said that facts found during this process can “inform a charging decision on criminal liability.”

In April of this year, KUOW published an investigation examining the events surrounding the death of Churna, a 39-year-old single mother living in Redmond. She called police last fall, and told an emergency dispatcher she feared someone was trying to kill her inside her apartment.

When police arrived, she was outside hanging from her balcony railing, and an officer recognized that Churna may be having mental health issues. When asked by the officer if she had access to a firearm, she said yes and retrieved a gun, according to a police statement. She had the gun for protection, according to relatives.

KUOW found that Churna had been on the ground as police directed, outside her apartment, for more than three minutes when she moved and police shot her, striking her multiple times.

The King County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit, the agency that conducted the investigation into the shooting, later located a loaded handgun in Churna’s residence, according to an October 2020 press release.

Three days after KUOW published their investigation, Redmond Police Chief Darrell Lowe issued a public statement on Churna’s death.

“I am committed to a thorough, comprehensive, and transparent review of this volatile incident to ensure tactics used and the officers’ actions were appropriate,” he wrote. “The bottom line is, a life was lost, and the lives of the officers who responded are forever changed.”

In July, after the King County Sheriff’s Office completed their investigation, Redmond police began its own examination to determine if there would be any policy changes, training needed, or disciplinary actions made.

Lowe wrote that the police department enlisted Force Science Institute — a company that provides consultation, training, and education on police use of force — to do an independent force review and analysis. Redmond Police spokesperson Jill Green said in an email that this review remains ongoing.

At the time of Churna’s death, Redmond Police did not use body-worn cameras. Since then, department leadership have taken action and plan on deploying body-worn cameras on Jan. 1, 2022, Green said.