Deputy's widow files $22 million claim

The Seattle Times

December 4, 2007

The family of a King County sheriff's deputy who was fatally shot a year ago by a felon who was under the supervision of the state Department of Corrections has filed a claim of up to $22 million against the prison system.

Maria Cox, the widow of Deputy Steve Cox, filed the claim Friday, two days before the one-year anniversary of her husband's death. She is asking for up to $12 million for herself and up to $10 million for their 2-year-old son, Bronson.

Cox, 46, a nine-year Sheriff's Office veteran, was fatally shot on Dec. 2, 2006, while he was questioning felon Raymond Porter in the bedroom of a White Center house. Porter, 23, then exchanged gunfire with two other deputies before committing suicide.

Maria Cox declined to talk about the claim Monday, but said the pain of her husband's death hasn't diminished. "We miss him terribly and the more time goes by the more we miss him," she said. "We have a lot of support from the community and the officers. It's just a terrible loss."

Attorney Jack Connelly, who is representing Maria Cox, said the claim is filed as a precursor to a lawsuit. He said the suit will likely be filed early next year.

"The facts are very egregious. He [Porter] should have never been out. Steve Cox was an upstanding guy," Connelly said. "We think this is a loss that should have never occurred."

Chad Lewis, spokesman for the DOC, said the agency is reviewing the claim.

"The Department is concerned for the Cox family and anguishes over this senseless death. The Department will work with the Office of the Attorney General on this matter, but routinely does not discuss tort claims at this early stage," Lewis wrote in an e-mail.

Porter had been released from prison in August 2006 and was placed under community corrections supervision, the DOC's version of probation. But after Porter failed two drug tests and repeatedly missed appointments with community corrections officers, the DOC issued a warrant for his arrest.

The warrant was quashed after Porter finally reported to community corrections, the DOC said. Community corrections staff could have sent him back to jail for testing positive for drugs, but instead ordered him to drug treatment.

Porter had a long criminal history dating to 1997, including convictions for drug manufacturing, assault, escape and being a felon in possession of a gun. He had been sentenced to jail or prison nine times.

Connelly said Porter was improperly released and that corrections officials "dropped the ball." He said Porter's community corrections officer failed to supervise him appropriately.

Cox was the third King County law-enforcement officer in 2006 whose death was blamed on someone under DOC supervision. The deaths prompted Gov. Christine Gregoire to order DOC to review how it supervises felons.

By Jennifer Sullivan