Two former Pierce County sheriff’s deputies allege the agency tried to cover up how a man who killed his wife and then himself got access to the gun used in the violence.
They also say the Sheriff’s Department used threats, violence and “fabricated charges” to retaliate against them for trying to bring attention to the issue, according to a lawsuit they filed against the county.
The Sheriff’s Department refuted those allegations and said the information the former deputies allege was covered up is documented in police reports.
“This is one that we’ll go all the way to the mat on if we need to, and we’re considering counter lawsuits,” sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said Friday.
Deputies Daniel Bray and Joey Tracy seek unspecified damages in their lawsuit, which accuses the county of wrongful termination, emotional distress, malicious prosecution, defamation and invasion of privacy.
They joined the Sheriff’s Department in 2012 and were working for the agency’s Foothills detatchment when they responded to the homicide-suicide April 17, 2015.
Their complaint, filed March 12 in Pierce County Superior Court, gives this account of what followed:
They learned 40-year-old David Annas fatally shot his wife, shot and injured her friend, then killed himself at the Annas’ Prairie Ridge home.
His wife, 33-year-old Regina Annas, filed for a restraining order earlier that day. She wrote in court papers that her husband got upset when she said she wanted to leave him and that she feared he would hurt her.
While investigating, Bray and Tracy discovered that other deputies had served the protection order hours before the shooting and that one of them allegedly had handed Annas his loaded gun as he gathered his things. That gun was the weapon he used in the shooting.
“Both Bray and Tracy were some of the first responding officers to the scene,” said Meaghan Driscoll, one of the attorneys representing the former deputies. “When they arrived at the Annas murder-suicide scene, they started asking questions and learned that the gun had been provided to the abuser just a couple hours earlier when their colleagues had served him with the protection order.”
In addition to the protection order, Annas was prohibited from having guns due to a 2010 assault conviction in Pierce County.
“Deputies Bray and Tracy knew that the act of allowing the abusive husband to keep his gun was in direct violation of the law, the standard of care, and basic police work,” the lawsuit states. “An officer’s job in serving a protective order is to protect the potential victim by locating and confiscating guns and weapons that belong to the abuser. The husband in this case was known to be violent and an existing court order prohibited him from owning or having access to a gun.”
Bray and Tracy told supervisors about the violation, and allege that they were told to keep quiet.
When the former deputies refused to drop it, they say the Sheriff’s Department started to target and harass them.
Sheriff’s spokesman Troyer said that’s not true and that the information about the gun was documented in police reports from the incident.
He also said there were 10 different internal investigations into Bray and Tracy, prompted by fellow deputies and citizens who came forward. They are on hold, he said, because Tracy and Bray left the department before the investigations were finished.
Sheriff Paul Pastor said in a statement: “The public should know that it is sometimes necessary to remove people from law enforcement who do not conduct themselves in a legal, ethical manner. The public should expect that we do this, and we see it as an important obligation to earn and maintain the trust of the public.”
The lawsuit alleges that the sheriff’s department started to “fabricate phony disciplinary actions against Bray and Tracy,” such as internal affairs investigations.
Bray and Tracy also said they were bullied and encouraged to take demotions. Bray was inexplicably told that he couldn’t go to Bonney Lake or take part in search and rescue tasks and had to get the OK from supervisors for normal duties, such as getting warrants, towing cars and investigating crime, according to the lawsuit.
He allegedly was denied a transfer to a different part of the agency, even though a sergeant there told him he would be welcome.
“By November 2015 Deputy Bray’s PTSD, anxiety, and depression due to continuous and ongoing retaliation had escalated to the point he could not work,” the lawsuit reads.
He went on medical leave, while Tracy kept working.
Tracy said in the lawsuit that he suffered “uninvited house visits, intrusive monitoring, false criminal accusations and drummed-up excuses to physically assault and attack him — all designed to intimidate and silence.”
He said deputies in body armor came to his house, broke his couch and took some of his belongings for no reason.
A SWAT team arrested him outside his psychologist’s office April 28, 2016 as part of a criminal misconduct case, the lawsuit states. The arrest was violent and had no justification, Tracy said.
Later at the jail, he was shackled, strip-searched and forced to urinate his pants. Then he had to “sleep in a holding cell shorter than his height,” and the agency “paraded him around the jail ‘to teach him a lesson,’” the lawsuit states.
Tracy was charged with custodial sexual misconduct and official misconduct after being accused of forcing a woman to have sex with him in his patrol car to avoid being arrested.
The county “published this lie to the world, and soon everyone with access to the internet could read about this fabricated and horrific story of a police officer abusing his power for sex,” the lawsuit states. “However, it was the Defendant County’s police department that was abusing its power to ensure that its deputies did not alert others that the Department was hiding its illegal acts.”
Prosecutors dropped the sexual misconduct charge in October 2016, citing trouble with the evidence. In January 2017, prosecutors dropped the remaining official misconduct charge when they could no longer find the alleged victim.
By then, Tracy said he too had been suffering from PTSD, anxiety and depression.
Both he and Bray were “medically separated” from the Sheriff’s Department in December 2016.
“But for these incidents, they would still be officers today,” said attorney Jack Connelly, who also represents the former deputies. “These incidents drove them out, which was the intent of the retaliation.”