A woman who was attacked and terrorized in 2010 by her estranged husband, a Yakima County sheriff’s deputy, has filed a claim against the county for $10 million.
Yakima attorney Bill Pickett filed the claim Friday on behalf of Michelle Moore, saying supervisors at the sheriff’s office were guilty of negligence for failing to properly supervise her husband, Sean Moore, who later hanged himself in jail while awaiting sentencing in the case.
“When law enforcement chooses to give an abuser a badge and gun, they fail their duty to protect and serve this community,” Pickett said. “It’s that simple. And they’re going to be held accountable.”
County officials, including Sheriff Ken Irwin, declined comment Friday, saying they hadn’t yet seen the claim. By law, county officials have 60 days to respond to the claim before a lawsuit can be filed.
At the time of his death, 37-year-old Moore was facing at least 10 years in prison for assaulting his estranged wife and a male companion in her Selah home while he was in uniform and on duty. He then returned later the same day and attacked her again.
The case riled the local law enforcement community and created tension between some of Moore’s colleagues and the Selah police department, which opened the investigation after rumors began to surface. There were also complaints about special visitation privileges that Moore received in jail shortly after his arrest.
Irwin issued a memo warning his staff against penning character references on sheriff’s office stationary or attending court in uniform on Moore’s behalf. Earlier, a half dozen deputies and Yakima police officers had attended a bail hearing in support of Moore, a seven-year veteran of the department.
In his claim, Pickett said sheriff’s officials had a chance to prevent the second attack had supervisors properly investigated Moore’s own report of a disturbance at his wife’s home after the first incident.
Pickett accused Sgt. Jeff Gillespie of accepting Moore’s account of what happened at face value and of failing to check on Michelle Moore’s welfare. Pickett called that a double standard.
“If that was you or me or Joe Blow and I called the police and said, ‘I walked in on my wife and things got a little crazy, but trust me nothing physical happened,’ I guarantee you they wouldn’t take my word for it. Unfortunately that didn’t happen in this case. The question is, why not? Officers are not supposed to get special treatment, right?”
According to a Selah police report, after the attack Michelle Moore told officers there had been numerous previous incidents of domestic violence and that her husband had become increasingly aggressive after being involved in an on-duty shooting in 2004.
Pickett, who has represented officers in a number of lawsuits, said Sean Moore had a propensity for violence and that sheriff’s officials knew it.
“I’ve done enough of these cases, and the first reaction is always, ‘No, that’s not us. That’s not our officer.’ They ignore it, deny it, fight it tooth and nail. Eventually that’s a recipe for disaster.
“If an officer suspects there’s been violence, they must arrest. There’s not exception to that rule just because another officer’s been involved. For some reason that didn’t happen here, and it’s wrong.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story’s headline was updated to reflect that Michelle Moore has filed a claim against Yakima County.