Wrongful death lawsuit says SPD officer’s lie led to Seattle man’s suicide
SEATTLE – A wrongful death lawsuit just filed in June claims that a lie told by a Seattle police officer directly led a Seattle man to commit suicide.
Three years after the incident, the man’s family and friends are suing the city.
Porter Feller was 40 when he committed suicide.
“He was a great friend and a great son,” said Renée Thomas, Feller’s mother. “I was devastated,” she said. “He was my person.”
“Porter was a good man. He was creative, artistic, never hurt anyone. But he was fragile. Very fragile, ”said attorney Mike Maxwell. Maxwell and Greg Marshall are the two attorneys representing Feller’s mother and her two friends in the lawsuit.
In May 2018, Feller struck another driver in a minor accident at E. Madison and Pine in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle and left the scene. No one was hurt.
Seattle Police Department dash cam video obtained by friends and lawyers shows an officer later searching for Feller.
In the video, you can hear Agent Matthew Kerby say he is considering using a trick.
“It’s a lie, but it’s fun,” Kerby said to another officer with him.
Body camera video then shows Kerby lying to Feller’s friend, identified as Maggie Parks in the lawsuit.
“He was involved in a hit and run earlier and left a woman in critical condition,” Kerby said.
“God damn it. When did that happen? ”Asks Parks.
“It was earlier today. She might not survive, ”says Kerby.
“Phew, just a second. I’m shaking, ”Parks later says as she searches her phone for Feller’s number. “Oh my God. I’m sorry; that’s a little hard news to hear.
The officer got Feller’s phone number. But an investigation by the independent Office of Police Accountability (OPA) found Kerby had never followed Feller or any other officer in charge of the case. The initial investigation was first widely reported by the Seattle Times.
Meanwhile, the OPA investigation indicated, according to friends, that Feller was increasingly concerned that he had hit and killed someone without realizing it and feared going to jail.
Five days later, Feller committed suicide using a deadly combination of drugs, leaving behind some of his belongings and a note.
“Notably, the night before he committed suicide, he directly told his roommate that the incident made him feel suicidal,” read the OPA report.
The report found that it is “clear that the ruse was, at least in part, a cause of the subject’s suicide.” The report also states that Kerby “abused his discretion” and that “the specific trick used here shocked fundamental fairness.”
Feller’s mother said if the officer had not lied, her son would have been alive today.
“Oh yeah. Or if he had just finished his job and called Porter, and that was taken care of, he would definitely be here,” Thomas said.
Now Thomas, Parks and Feller’s roommate at the time have filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
“I was absolutely appalled. I have never met a police officer who thought his job involved personal entertainment, ”said attorney Greg Marshall.
“When the police lie, it causes a breach of trust between the community and the police,” said attorney Mike Maxwell.
Feller was Thomas’ only child.
“There is a huge hole in my life that cannot be filled. And every stage of life, every event, every – there’s no one to share it with, ”said Thomas. “The only way to change police services is to make them pay,” she said.
Kerby was suspended for six days without pay after the OPA investigation. He is currently still an officer with the Seattle Police Department.
KIRO7 has contacted the city attorney’s office for comment. A spokesperson said in an email: “We are reviewing the complaint and intend to investigate the complaints filed in this matter.”
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