KENT, Wash. – Police said Monday they have arrested three teenage suspects in Sunday morning's tragic police-pursuit accident in which Kent officer Diego Moreno was killed.
The three suspects now in custody are aged from 16 to 17. The driver, a 16-year-old, is being held for investigation of second-degree murder, the other two for unlawful possession of a firearm and investigation of unlawful discharge of a firearm.
“Good people doing their absolute best to serve community sometimes fall upon tragedy,” Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said at a news conference. “Split-second decisions are made, life and death is in the balance and we can’t always get it the way we want it to be.”
Padilla fought back tears as he shared new details into an early Sunday morning police pursuit that killed one of his own -- an eight-year veteran of the department.
“I am relieved to report that as of today the two additional suspects -- the driver and additional passenger -- have been taken into custody,” Padilla said.
Investigators say they first got calls into 911 about a shooting at a parking lot at a Shari’s restaurant.
“I was in the kitchen and I heard pops,” said neighbor Roselynn Miller.
Miller lives across the street – she heard the shooting and the moment police responded to investigate.
“Went to the corner, made a right and at that time a cop was coming down Russel Road and he put on his blues and went after him,” she said.
From Shari’s, Kent police say several more officers, including Moreno, set up near State Route 516 (Kent-Des Moines Road) near Reith Road to deploy spike strips. The spikes worked, but another pursuing Kent police officer struck Moreno and he died of his injuries.
“The other officers responding had the difficult task of providing immediate emergency aid, but unfortunately he did not survive his injuries,” said Padilla.
The red pickup truck the officers were pursuing, with flattened tires, continued east on SR 516 before crashing near Washington Avenue. Police arrested one passenger shortly after, then the driver and a second passenger some time later.
Kent’s mayor vowed to do what she could to see the suspects face the justice they deserve.
“As the mayor, the buck stops with me,” said Dana Ralph. “There is no place in Kent for crime or violence against residents or our police officers. I will do everything in my power (to see) the individuals responsible for this are prosecuted to the fullest extent. That’s my promise to you.”
The pursing officer who struck Moreno is an 18-year veteran of the Kent Police Department and he continues to recover from his injuries. He was not identified.
Three more bystanders were injured at the crash scene but police say they only had minor injuries and were treated and released.
The Washington State Patrol is investigating the incident.