Redmond to pay $7.5M over 'serious errors' in police killing of local mom
A year and a half after Redmond Police shot and killed 39-year-old Andrea Thomas Churna in her apartment building, following her call to 911 for help, the City of Redmond has agreed to pay her family $7.5 million in a lawsuit settlement.
The Redmond City Council approved the settlement Tuesday evening, Redmond Police spokesperson Jill Green said.
“While no amount of money will bring Andrea back, the settlement does send a clear message that the Redmond Police Department made some serious errors in the way they handled Andrea’s call for help, as well as highlights necessary change in their hiring and training practices,” lawyers for the family, Kim Zak and Ken Kambich of Shiers Law Firm, said in a statement.
Zak and Kambich said they believe this is the largest pre-litigation settlement for a police shooting case in Washington state. The settlement money will go to Churna’s estate, her 8-year-old son, and her parents Mike and Maggie Thomas.
Redmond Police Chief Darrell Lowe issued a statement Wednesday saying the settlement “closes a painful chapter.”
“I again offer my sympathies to Ms. Churna’s family and loved ones,” Lowe wrote. “It is a tragedy that this had to end with a loss of life.”
A KUOW investigation reconstructed what happened the night Churna was killed by police, in a story published in April 2021.
“I think someone’s trying to kill me at my apartment,” Churna told emergency dispatchers at 9:23 p.m. in September 2020.
Police arrived and found her hanging from her balcony railing, they reported. Officers recognized that Churna could have been experiencing mental health issues. When they asked if she had access to a firearm, Churna said she did and retrieved a gun, police said. Relatives said Churna had the gun for protection.
Thirty minutes later, Churna was unarmed, laying face down on the floor as seven Redmond police officers -- positioned 22 feet away -- aimed their guns at her.
Redmond Police Officer Daniel Mendoza shot her six times, killing her.
Mendoza remains employed by the Redmond Police Department.
In his statement on Wednesday, Chief Lowe corrected the department’s original statement on the shooting, published the day after Churna’s death. The original statement said Churna had “confronted officers with a handgun.”
“While Churna was armed with a handgun earlier in the encounter with Redmond officers, when she was shot and killed in the hallway just outside of her apartment, Churna was unarmed,” Lowe wrote.
Churna’s handgun was on her balcony at the time she was shot.
“I apologize to Andrea Thomas Churna's family and loved ones for the inaccurate statement made regarding the circumstances surrounding her death,” Lowe said.
Churna’s father, Mike Thomas, is a retired Michigan Police commander, and has investigated police shooting cases.
“(Mike Thomas) is at a complete loss as to why the King County Prosecutor’s Office has not moved forward with criminal charges,” lawyers for Churna’s family wrote. “His unarmed and compliant daughter, wearing yoga pants and a short sleeve t-shirt, was shot 6 times with a high-powered rifle while lying face down in the hallway outside of her apartment.”
The King County Prosecutor’s Office hasn’t decided if they will press charges against Mendoza. Instead, the case will go through King County’s inquest process. The prosecutor’s office will decide whether to file charges after the inquest, a spokesperson said last fall.
No date has been set yet for the inquest hearing to begin, said King County spokesperson Cameron Satterfield.
Following Churna’s death, Redmond Police Chief Lowe said the department updated its policies to require officers to wear body-worn cameras and have more access to less-lethal weapons.