Teen pleads guilty to murder in death of police officer during pursuit
Officer Diego Moreno was struck and killed while laying out spike strips
KENT, Wash. — A Kent teenager who led police on a high-speed police pursuit last year that ended in the death of Kent Police Officer Diego Moreno pleaded guilty to murder Wednesday.
Emiliano Garcia, 17, was charged as an adult with second-degree felony murder last year, but his case will return to juvenile court as a condition of his plea agreement, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
Garcia was 16 when he led officers on a high-speed vehicle pursuit the early morning of July 22, 2018. The pursuit, which reached speeds of 95 mph, ended in Moreno's death. He was struck and killed by a fellow officer while laying out spike strips to stop Garcia’s car. Prosecutors argued that Moreno died as a result of Garcia’s attempt to elude police.
Moreno, 35, was a decorated eight-year veteran of the police department and was married with two young children. The procession at his memorial stretched nearly 6 miles.
Garcia’s attorney, Bradley Barshis with law firm Newton & Hall, said he’s glad the case was refiled in juvenile court but added, “No matter the result of this case, there are no winners in a case like this.”
Before the chase, Garcia was drinking with friends at a bar and restaurant in the 5800 block of South 240th Street in Kent. They got in a fight with a group of older men outside, and dozens of shots were fired just before 2 a.m. Garcia jumped into his father’s pickup truck along with two 17-year-old boys and sped away with an officer in pursuit, according to charging documents.
As the officer followed Garcia, who charging documents said was driving recklessly without his headlights turned on, Moreno set up spike strips at West Meeker Street and Kent Des Moines Road to puncture the truck’s tires. He told the other responding officers over the radio that Garcia drove over the spikes. But an officer in pursuit of Garcia struck and killed Moreno. That officer then crashed into cars stopped on the roadway and broke his leg.
Garcia’s car struck a center barrier and flipped over, and another officer saw Garcia and one of the passengers climb out and run away. The other was arrested at the scene. Garcia and the other passenger were arrested later that day.
Both passengers pleaded guilty to second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and reckless endangerment in December, according to court records. They were sentenced to 60 days in jail, with credit for those days already being served, two years of community supervision and 200 hours of community service, along with aggression-replacement therapy.
Garcia’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 15