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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane considers $250,000 settlement with family of man killed by police while he held toddler, knife

Peterson Kamo, 23, left, and his brother, Bruce Kamo, in summer 2021.  (Courtesy of the Kamo Family)

The family of a 23-year-old Marshallese man who was killed by police after allegedly holding a knife to a toddler in 2022 may soon receive a settlement of $250,000 from the city of Spokane, avoiding a lengthy and potentially costly civil trial.

Peterson Kamo’s family filed a tort claim in September of that year, a necessary step before filing a lawsuit, claiming that officers did not take enough time to understand the situation that January day before advancing and shooting him six times while he held his 2-year-old nephew.

“The family is still grieving, and they’re relieved the city is cooperating and that they were able to get this resolved without going through formal litigation,” said attorney Bill Gilbert, who represented the Kamo family.

At least two council members believe the city should not settle and intend to vote against the payment, however, arguing that officers acted properly to save the life of a toddler they believed Kamo was threatening to harm or kill. Settling sends the wrong message to the police department, argues council members Jonathan Bingle and Michael Cathcart, potentially making officers hesitate to act promptly in an urgent situation.

“They need to know the city’s got their back,” Bingle said. “Not every fight is worth fighting, but I think this is worth fighting.”

The settlement resolution was first introduced Monday at a council committee, but has not been officially scheduled for a vote.

The settlement being proposed is relatively small compared to some that the city and neighboring jurisdictions have paid out in other cases involving someone dying after being shot by police. In September 2022, around when the Kamos filed their tort claim against the city, Spokane and its insurers agreed to pay $4 million as part of a legal settlement with the family of David Novak, who was shot and killed the night of Jan. 7, 2019, after neighbors reported he was drunk, shouting racial slurs at them and shooting a gun toward their home.

The same year, Spokane County paid $1 million to the family of Ethan Murry, 25, who was shot and killed by a Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy in 2019.

Then-Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich strongly disagreed with the settlement and defended his deputies.

The amount being considered as payment to the Kamo family more closely matches the $275,000 settlement that the city of Spokane agreed to pay a woman three years after she said she slipped into a downtown grate covering tree roots and suffered serious injuries.

The Kamo case began on Jan. 24, 2022, when officers responded after a caller told dispatchers that their neighbor, who didn’t speak much English, came to her door crying and saying her son was dead. It was later verified that Peterson Kamo’s brother, Lamoa Kamo, had died a week prior due to a medical condition.

Peterson Kamo was the only one at home at the time who spoke fluent English.

Body camera footage showed Officer Corrigan Mohondro arrived at the scene and walked up to the home with Sgt. Kevin Vaughn.

Kamo’s mother, Brenda Kamo, could be heard yelling.

“Please hurry up, I need help,” she said.

“My son (unintelligible) the baby and he said he’s going to kill the baby and himself,” she said.

Mohondro looked toward the house, where, according to the statement he gave to investigators, he saw Kamo holding a knife to the 2-year-old’s throat.

“I saw him suddenly raise a knife from down at his side and point it toward the child and start yelling,” Mohondro wrote.

Mohondro said he saw Kamo pick up a can of Coleman camping fuel as he went up the stairs.

With guns drawn, officers attempted to talk Kamo down, telling him to let the baby go.

“Why are you trying to shoot me?” Kamo said. “If you shoot me, you going to hit him, too.”

“We got to see you to know the baby is OK, to talk,” Mohondro said.

“He’s all right,” Kamo responds.

“I’ve got my hands up, man. I got nothing on me,” Kamo said as he holds one hand over the landing.

“Look, I’m not holding nothing, man,” Kamo said. “Why do you got guns pointed at me?”

“Because, man, you had a knife pointed at the baby,” Mohondro replied.

“I got no knife pointed at him,” Kamo said.

Officers said they saw Kamo poured fuel from the can onto the carpet and believed he was going to light it on fire.

Mohondro and Lynch moved up the stairs toward Kamo. In body camera footage, a knife can be seen in Kamo’s hand close to the toddler.

“I could clearly see a silver knife in the male’s right hand,” Lynch wrote in his statement to investigators. “The knife was pointed up like he was getting ready to strike at any moment.”

Mohondro and Lynch shot Kamo six times. The 23-year-old fell to the ground, releasing the toddler, who was reportedly uninjured.

Officers immediately began first aid, but Kamo was pronounced dead at the scene.

Prosecutors decided not to charge the officers who shot and killed Kamo, stating that Mohondro and Lynch were justified in their use of deadly force due to their concerns for the safety of the toddler.

Peterson Kamo was shot four times in the left side of his back and twice in his midback, indicating Kamo was facing away from the officer, the family’s tort claim says.

Officers did not spend much time talking with the family before rushing into the house, which the family said led police to misjudge the situation.