In 2018, Diego Moreno was inadvertently struck and killed by a fellow officer during a vehicle pursuit. The fleeing suspect, then a 16-year old was charged in his death. If he had been tried as an adult, he would have faced a sentence of 10 to 18 years.
A Kent teen who pleaded guilty to 2nd degree murder in the death of Officer Diego Moreno will be sentenced this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/wTL2Mjo262
— Natalie Swaby (@NSwabyKing5) November 15, 2019
Instead, the now 17-year old accepted a deal. He pleaded guilty to second degree murder. His sentence: he will be incarcerated in juvenile detention until he turns 21.
If you were expecting to now read that he would then be reprimanded to prison to serve the rest of his sentence, you will not find those words. The Judge, Sean O’Donnell sentenced the teen to a less than 4-year sentence.
“You have a remarkable opportunity to turn a page,” O’Donnell said. “I hope you take advantage of that.”
Yep. That is it. While he will have a murder conviction, he will back out on the street in 2023. It is unclear whether Washington state law allows for the record to be sealed since he was tried and convicted as a minor.
We are deeply saddened by the loss of Officer Diego Moreno. He was part of our family and we will always have him in our hearts. Please continue to keep Officer Moreno, his family, friends, and colleagues in your thoughts and prayers. pic.twitter.com/VVpCsrCy9W
— Kent Police (@kentpd) July 23, 2018
According to King5 News, the prosecution reminded the packed courtroom that the officers were responding to a ‘shots fired’ call in a crowded parking lot in July of last year. The youth led police on a chase that reached speeds of 95 miles per hour.
Moreno had just put down spike strips when he was struck by a police vehicle and died as a result of those injuries.
Prior to the sentencing from O’Donnell, members of both families took turns at the courtroom microphone.
“My life shattered. I lost my best friend. l lost my big brother, and I lost my soulmate. My mom lost her only son and his kids lost their amazing father,” said Alejandra Moreno. “Now almost 16 months after his death, the silence of his absence is heartbreakingly deafening.”
Then she did something unexpected.
“Your Honor, I have a gift,” said Lizzie Lee, Officer Moreno’s mother.
Lee gave the teen a challenge coin that symbolized Officer Moreno’s sacrifice and heroism. It is a gift she has given to Officer Moreno’s closest friends. She wanted to give a coin to the 17-year-old so he would not forget who the world lost.
“I cannot imagine how much you must be hurting and the anger you must feel, but please know that my family and I would do anything to change what happened,” said Brianna Garcia, the teenager’s sister.
The teen’s sister apologized.
“I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that I am truly sorry,” the convicted teen said.
We brought you the story of the fallen officer the day of his death, July 23, 2018.
Chief Rafael Padilla of the Kent Police Department in the state of Washington sadly reports the death of Officer Diego Moreno.
“The officer is an eight-year veteran with Kent Police; his contributions to our department, and positive impact on his co-workers and the community, have been significant,” Kent Police posted on Facebook.
Officer Moreno was assisting in a pursuit where a vehicle was fleeing from the scene of a shots fired call. As a result of the pursuit, Moreno was laying down stop sticks in an attempt to deflate the tires of the suspect vehicle and bring the pursuit to an end.
While Moreno was positioning the stop sticks, he was struck by a Kent Police patrol vehicle that was pursuing the suspect vehicle. The Kent patrol unit then struck three other vehicles injuring the officer driving it. Sadly, Moreno died at the scene of the crash.
The vehicle being pursued struck the stop sticks and crashed. The suspect driver has been taken into custody.
“Make no question about this, were it not for the actions of this suspect or suspects, this officer would be alive today. It’s directly because of the suspect or suspects’ actions that led to the officer’s death,” WSP Captain Ron Mead said at a news conference at Kent City Hall.
The Washington State Patrol is investigating the vehicle crash and the Valley Investigation Team is conducting the criminal investigation.
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The officer driving the patrol vehicle striking Moreno and subsequently striking other vehicles was transported to the Harborview Medical Center for treatment. He is listed in critical but stable condition.
Family and friends confirm that @kentpd Officer Diego Moreno was killed during an overnight police chase. We are working to learn as much about him as we can. More @KIRO7Seattle pic.twitter.com/Qmi9dpeitv
— DeborahHorne (@DeborahKIRO7) July 22, 2018
Diego Moreno served the Kent Police Department for eight years. Moreover, he was a hostage negotiator and a defensive tactics instructor. He had received numerous commendations and awards for excellence in his service to the community during his career. He is survived by his wife and two young children.
“He was the full package,” said Des Moines Police Chief Ken Thomas, who previously headed up the Kent department. “An absolutely top-notch police officer, who would not only work to go out and arrest suspects but work with the community as well.”
Officer Diego Moreno is gone but will never be forgotten.
EOW: Sunday, July 22, 2018.
Tell us your thoughts. Was the judge too lenient in the sentencing? Was it a fair sentence seeing that the teen did not strike the officer himself? Should he be headed to prison once he completes his time in juvenile detention.
One thing is for certain. We should be grateful that the judge didn’t turn him loose when he turns 18.