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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ryan Holyk’s family reaches $1 million settlement in civil suit

Hundreds gather for a candlelight vigil, June 5, 2014, at the corner of Sprague and Vista to remember accident victim Ryan Holyk. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The family of Ryan Holyk has reached a $1 million settlement with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office a week before their wrongful death lawsuit was set to go to trial.

Fifteen-year-old Holyk was killed while riding his bicycle late at night on May 23, 2014. He was struck by a speeding patrol car driven by Deputy Joe Bodman at the intersection of Sprague Avenue and Vista Road. Bodman was responding to a call but did not have his lights and sirens activated.

Holyk was riding a bicycle without brakes or reflectors and pedaled through the red light. He reportedly tried to stop his bicycle to avoid a collision and Bodman swerved. Investigators initially said that Bodman had been able to steer clear of Holyk. But a lengthy investigation finally determined that, based on the presence of Holyk’s DNA and an impression of his hat band on the bumper, Bodman’s vehicle likely struck Holyk’s head after he fell to the ground.

Bodman was reprimanded for violating department policy by not using his lights and siren. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said a letter of reprimand only stays in a deputy’s personnel file for two years.

The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file any charges against the deputy.

The family’s attorney requested a mediator to discuss a settlement and the Washington Counties Risk Pool agreed to a tentative settlement, said Knezovich.

“I found out about that yesterday,” he said. “We weren’t put on notice that that was going to happen. We were preparing for trial.”

The Holyk family attorney, Mike Maurer, said the family wasn’t up to a three-week trial that would examine their son’s death in minute detail, especially the graphic photos and animations of what occurred.

“We’re talking about the death of a young boy,” Maurer said. “What was important to them was an acknowledgment that Deputy Bodman’s vehicle struck Ryan. It took years of litigation to finally get the Sheriff and the county to capitulate that that in fact did happen.”

Knezovich said he would have preferred to go to trial rather than settle.

“I feel that this should have gone to trial because that is the only way the facts come out in totality,” he said. “I don’t make that call.”

Maurer accused Knezovich of misleading the public about what happened that night, including the sheriff’s insistance for months that Bodman’s car never hit Holyk.

“There is no doubt the county would have lost this case,” he said. “You don’t pay a million dollars if you’re convinced you are going to win.”

Knezovich said he would like to speak to the Holyk family and hears that Holyk’s mother has been working on bicycle awareness issues. “I really would like to help her move that forward,” he said.

Both Knezovich and Maurer said it’s time to move forward. “This is the right decision to allow this family to move on,” Maurer said.

“I hope that this brings resolution and brings everyone a chance to heal,” Knezovich said.