State Trooper Lane Jackstadt was cleared by an inquest jury yesterday of any wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of a Kent motorist who attacked him after a traffic stop in August.
Jackstadt declined comment as he left Seattle District Court after an inquest jury voted, 6 to 0, that he had grounds to believe he was in great personal danger from Steven Smith.
Jackstadt's wife, Diane, sobbed with relief as the verdict was read by Judge Mark Chow.
Jury foreman Harold Mischke of Kirkland described more than two hours of deliberations as difficult but declined further comment.
There was testimony that Smith, 32, was legally drunk and driving his car at speeds up to 76 miles an hour on Interstate 90 on Mercer Island before the chase ended in a struggle at Rainier Avenue South and South Charles Street Aug. 29.
Jackstadt, 30, had wept in court earlier this week as he told how he felt Smith was preparing to draw a weapon and kill him. Smith was not armed.
James Cline, Jackstadt's attorney, said the trooper "was really shaken up by realizing he'd taken another human life."
"When he was testifying, he was revisiting the scene each time," Cline said.
Earlier in the day, a State Patrol review board ruled that Jackstadt's use of deadly force fell within Patrol guidelines.
Deputy Prosecutor Patricia Eakes said the prosecutor's office will decide within two weeks whether any criminal charges will be filed. The review will be independent of the jury's findings, she said.
Smith, a native of England, was a delivery worker whose friends had described him as nonassertive and low key.