Attorneys representing the family of a 30-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by a Clark County sheriff’s deputy are heralding the withdrawal of a motion by the county’s lawyers as a victory.
On March 16, lawyers representing the family of Jenoah Donald announced Clark County withdrew a motion for summary judgment in a wrongful death lawsuit against the county. The announcement came days after the Donald family’s attorneys filed a brief in response to the motion.
The brief included a number of arguments against prior descriptions of the events that led to Donald’s death following the Feb. 4, 2021, shooting in Hazel Dell. It alleges Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Sean Boyle, who fired the fatal shot, could have de-escalated the situation, but instead “climbed into the car to assault Donald, knocking the car into gear,” a release announcing the motion’s withdrawal stated.
The lawyers argued it also would not have been possible for Donald to grab Boyle’s vest when he was shot during the traffic stop because of where Boyle was standing and due to a lack of DNA evidence on the vest.
“There is no physical evidence to support Boyle’s purported belief his life was in danger,” the brief argues.
The brief also uncovered a 2018 report which revealed Boyle shot at another suspect in a similar situation to Donald’s, but missed. In that instance, Boyle was several feet from the vehicle and not in danger of being hurt by the car, the brief stated.
Boyle was not disciplined or re-trained in either shooting, according to the brief. The Donald family’s attorneys argue this shows “deficient and sub-standard” county policies.
“Clark County’s Use of Force Policy in effect (at) the time of the shooting did not even mention de-escalation, let alone require de-escalation,” the brief argues.
It connects the results of Donald’s death with those of Kevin Peterson, Jr., who was fatally shot in a drug sting a few months beforehand, and of off-duty Vancouver police officer Donald Sahota at his home in 2022. All three died after being shot by Clark County sheriff’s deputies.
The Donald family’s attorneys said the county’s decision to withdraw its motion for summary judgment is “highly unusual.” The county’s lawyers said motions like theirs are moved all the time.
In an email response, the county’s attorneys said they are re-drafting their motion and will file it again in April.
“In part, this is to address claims that are not factual,” the county’s attorneys wrote.
They disputed the assertion by the family’s attorneys who stated Boyle “knocked” Donald’s car into gear, stating the vehicle’s safety features made that impossible. They also addressed the 2018 shooting, noting the subject had warrants out for his arrest, stole a tow truck, hit a car and a tree, ran a red light and fought with Boyle and his K-9.
“The biggest criminal threat we face as civilians is being hit by a drunk driver,” the county’s attorneys wrote. “Deputy Boyle’s actions stopped this dangerous drunk driver and protected our community.”
The lawsuit is currently set for trial in federal court in Tacoma on July 10.
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