Jury Rules Teen Intended To Jump To His Death -- Trooper Cleared In Fatal Plunge Over Snoqualmie Falls
An Issaquah youth being chased by a state trooper intentionally jumped to his death over Snoqualmie Falls July 3, an inquest jury has ruled.
The unanimous jury finding yesterday supports the account of a state trooper who said Anthony Scontrino planted both feet on a fence railing and deliberately leapt 600 feet to his death.
Seattle District Court jurors agreed with the testimony of State Trooper Todd Blue that he never fired a shot during the incident. Blue chased Scontrino, first in his car then on foot, after Scontrino's car passed him near Fall City going about 85 miles an hour.
During the 2 1/2-day inquest, jurors heard testimony that Scontrino had discussed suicide in the past and had told a girlfriend he intended to drive his car over the falls to end his life.
Jurors also were given a written statement from the girlfriend, who said Scontrino told her "he didn't want to live anymore."
Blue said that while chasing the 17-year-old Scontrino screeched to a halt at the Snoqualmie Falls Park, ran to the railing and jumped without hesitation.
The sole challenge to Blue's account came from Cecil Pollard, security guard for the nearby Salish Lodge.
Pollard testified Monday that he was certain he heard as many as eight shots fired in the parking lot and was critical of the way the State Patrol handled the investigation.
Other witnesses, however, said Scontrino's car backfired as it pulled into the lot.
And a police sergeant from the city of Snoqualmie characterized Pollard as being repeatedly "antagonistic" toward police in the past.
A weapons expert who examined Blue's 9-millimeter pistol said it was not fired the night of the incident.
Detectives who searched the parking lot said they found no shell casings or indication of bullets striking anything.
State Patrol Sgt. Fred Walser testified it would never be proper for a trooper to fire his weapon while pursuing a suspect for a traffic infraction. "That's instant sanction," he said.
The six jurors were asked to determine whether Scontrino fell or intentionally jumped over the cliff, whether Scontrino's car backfired, whether Blue fired during the chase and, if he did, whether the shot was the "proximate cause" of Scontrino's plunge.
The unanimous findings support the officer's position on each point.
Inquest findings are referred to King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng to help determine whether criminal charges are warranted against police involved in a fatal incident.
Deputy King County Prosecutor Roger Davidheiser, who conducted the inquest, told reporters afterward: "I saw absolutely no evidence of any criminal conduct on the part of the trooper."
The incident was traumatic for Blue, 23, who had been a commissioned officer just three months at the time. Blue testified this was the first time he had pursued a suspect.
Blue declined to comment after the proceeding but his attorney, Jim Cline, said "He's just glad it's over. . . . He's taking it in stride as best as can be expected."
Cline said he felt it was unfortunate Blue's actions were called into question by "someone (Pollard) who seems to simply have an ax to grind with law-enforcement personnel."
Blue has remained on routine patrol, Cline said, because the State Patrol's own investigation of the incident produced no evidence he had done anything improper.
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