Inquest explores 2019 fatal police shooting in Renton

See the video: Anthony Tony Tovar, 43, died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds on Dec. 12, 2019.

A jury will determine whether the Renton Police Department contributed to the death of a 43-year-old man in a 2019 officer-involved shooting.

Anthony Tony Tovar, 43, died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds on Dec. 12, 2019, at Harborview Medical Center after a shooting involving the retired Sgt. Russell Radke of the Renton Police Department.

An inquest hearing scheduled to run from March 18 to March 29 will examine Tovar’s death.

What is an inquest?

An inquest serves to investigate the causes and circumstances surrounding a person’s death. An order from the King County Executive signed in July 2021 calls for an inquest investigation to be held every time law enforcement may have contributed to a person’s death.

In King County, an inquest investigation serves as a public hearing where members of a jury listen to evidence about what happened, then answer questions about the facts and circumstances of the person’s death.

The jury of the inquest investigation will not make determinations of guilt or decide whether any party owes civil damages as in a criminal or civil trial. Rather, the jury will make factual findings regarding the events after a presentation of evidence and witnesses.

After jury members have finished hearing and viewing evidence, they will be asked to deliberate together to answer a series of factual questions called interrogatories, answering questions including:

“Who died? How did he die? Did any law enforcement officer use force against the person who died? If so, did the use of force cause the person’s death? What law enforcement policies and training applied to the officers involved in the death? Were the actions of the officers in compliance with the police department policies and training? Did the death occur by criminal means, which means, were the actions of the officer justifiable or excusable as defined by state law at the time of this incident?” Judge Marcine Anderson, inquest administrator, read to the jury.

Jurors will answer the questions individually.

“Your findings at the end of this inquest will help the general public, our public officials, the people and departments involved in this incident, and Anthony Tovar’s family understand what led to his death,” Anderson said to jurors.


Anderson provided a general summary to jurors prior to the calling of witnesses and presentations of evidence:

“This inquest involves the shooting death of Anthony Tovar by Renton Police Department Sergeant Russell Radke. The shooting occurred on December 12, 2019, near the intersection of SE 168th Street and 116th Avenue Southeast in Renton, WA.

“We expect the evidence to show that Sergeant Radke observed Anthony Tovar drinking a bottle of alcohol on a street corner. When Sergeant Radke tried to contact Mr. Tovar, Mr. Tovar did not respond to commands to stop and instead walked away, and soon thereafter displayed what appeared to be a shotgun.

“Sergeant Radke will testify that he fired two shots after he saw Mr. Tovar’s hand rest on the pistol grip of the shotgun. Mr. Tovar dropped the apparent shotgun on the ground.

“Sergeant Radke continued to follow and issue verbal commands to Mr. Tovar. Mr. Tovar did not comply and began pacing in the roadway.

“As other Renton Police Department officers began to arrive, Mr. Tovar removed the clothing from the top half of his body, revealing a knife in his waistband.

“Officer Jason Jones fired a less lethal projectile at Mr. Tovar. Mr. Tovar drew the knife from his waistband and began moving towards Officer Jones. Sergeant Radke then fired three additional shots at Mr. Tovar. Mr. Tovar fell to the ground. Officers from the Renton Police Department handcuffed Mr. Tovar and rendered first aid. He was later pronounced dead at Harborview Medical Center.

“The evidence will include testimony and documents from those who were present during and immediately after the officers interacted with Mr. Tovar, those who investigated this incident, including the lead detective and the medical examiner, and a designee from the Renton Police Department about the policies and training that applied to the officer’s actions,” Anderson stated.

Video of the shooting:


Prior to the introduction of the jury, Anderson ruled to admit testimony from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office regarding Tovar’s hydrocodone and alcohol levels and denied testimony regarding carboxy-THC and amphetamine levels, as carboxy-THC serves as non-active and a prior history of methamphetamine contamination in the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab.

Inquest rules permitted Tovar’s family to provide a photograph of Tovar and a short introductory statement.

“Anthony Tony Tovar was a beloved father, son, brother, uncle, and cousin. Tony brought joy to those around him with his charming smile and infectious laugh. He was born and raised in Southern California and made Washington his home during his early twenties. His memory will forever live on in the hearts of his friends and family,” read Tovar’s family’s statement.

Judge Anderson serves as the inquest administrator, determining who will be called as witnesses, what evidence is admitted, and what interrogatories will be answered. Tenaya Scheinman and Claire Thornton serve as inquest program attorneys through the King County Department of Executive Services.

Terry Rogers Kemp and Sheley Anderson serve as co-counsel, representing Anthony Tovar’s family.

Jeremy Culumber and Anthony Marinella represent the retired Sergeant Russell Radkey, Officer Jason Jones, and the Renton Police Department.

The inquest hearing will finalize on March 29.