On September 12, 2023, the Estate of Karin Riebe filed a lawsuit against King County for its role in Karin’s death.
On the morning of September 14, 2021, Karin’s adult son Shawn experienced a severe mental health episode. Shawn, who lived with his mom, pulled out his gun and loaded it. He then threatened Karin, telling her she was not welcome in her own home and to get out.
Worried about her son but also in fear for her life, Karin called 911. The lawsuit alleges that instead of arresting Shawn as it was required to do under Washington State’s domestic violence laws, King County deputies told Karin they could not arrest Shawn for a crime or involuntarily detain him for mental health reasons. In short, despite Shawn having threatened Karin with a gun, the County refused to remove him from her home. It instead instructed Karin to stay away until Shawn had “cooled down.”
Just months before, in the summer of 2021, the Washington state legislature enacted a new law clarifying the permissible uses of force by law enforcement officers – House Bill 1310. The lawsuit claims the County was upset about HB 1310, and that in exasperation, the County trumpeted the Bill as an excuse for it not to detain Shawn.
Later that afternoon, after following the County’s vague suggestion to let Shawn “cool down,” Karin returned home. But Shawn was still armed and in a mental crisis. As she tried to enter her house, Shawn shot her to death.
Only after the shooting did officers swarm the house. Following a seven-hour standoff, Shawn was arrested and charged with murder. He is currently in jail and awaiting trial. The lawsuit also names him as a defendant.
Washington’s domestic violence laws are mandatory and crystal clear. They required the County to arrest Shawn after he threatened her with a deadly weapon. No discretion. Instead, the County weaponized other inapplicable laws to avoid doing its duty. Karin Riebe begged for the County’s aid. Instead, it abandoned her, leaving her helpless to return to her own home safely. They must be held accountable for their role in her death.
-Lisa Benedetti, lead counsel.
STATEMENT OF THE FAMILY OF KARIN RIEBE
Our family is seeking justice for Karin, and to hold the King County Sheriff’s Office accountable for her death.
Karin was the best sister anyone could have. She was a kind, caring, loving person with a heart that was bigger than life itself. And she had the most infectious laugh!
Karin begged for help that day from the police, for both herself and her son Shawn. The police could have prevented her death, but they did not step up and protect her. She received nothing from them but ill-advised words.
BaaBoo (our nickname for Karin) will forever be in our hearts.
COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES
Stritmatter Kessler Koehler Moore (The Stritmatter Firm) is a nationally recognized firm known for representing victims of wrongful death, serious personal injuries, and civil rights lawsuits. The legal team for this case includes Lisa Benedetti, Gemma Zanowski, Ed Moore, and paralegal Katie Green.
Press contact: Kassie Seaton | 360.310.3398 | firstname.lastname@example.org