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Family of man killed by Sedro-Woolley police officer files wrongful death lawsuit 

City of Mount Vernon, Sedro-Woolley, Skagit County and officer named in suit related to 2022 David Babcock shooting

Elizabeth Babcock attending a protest outside of Sedro-Wooley Police Department, behind a woman holding up a sign called Justice for David Babock.
David Babcock's daughter Elizabeth, left, attends a protest in March 2022, outside the Sedro-Woolley Police Department several weeks after officer Max Rosser shot and killed Elizabeth's father, David Babcock. Babcock's family is now filing a wrongful death lawsuit. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Charlotte Alden General Assignment/Enterprise Reporter

The family of a man shot and killed by a Sedro-Woolley police officer in 2022 filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Mount Vernon, the City of Sedro-Woolley, Skagit County and Maxwell Rosser, the officer who fired the shots. 

David Babcock died in February 2022 from a gunshot to the head while driving around a Sedro-Woolley Police spike strip. Filed in Snohomish County Superior Court on Thursday, May 9, the family of Babcock is asking for monetary damages including pre-death pain and suffering, fear of death, medical bills and funeral expenses.

The lawsuit also cites loss of future potential earnings and enjoyment of life for Babcock, 51, as well as loss of love and companionship and the destruction of the parent/child relationship for his family. 

The lawsuit argues that the four defendants were negligent in their handling of the incident: Rosser, for breaching his duty to act reasonably and with ordinary care in his interactions with Babcock; and the City of Mount Vernon, the City of Sedro-Woolley and Skagit County for failing to adequately train and supervise their employees. 

The family had served Claims for Damages to the two cities and the county on Dec. 27, 2023, but none of the entities resolved the lawsuit, Melanie Nguyen, an attorney for the family, told Cascadia Daily News on Tuesday, May 14. 

On Feb. 16, 2022, law enforcement officers from Mount Vernon, Skagit County and Sedro-Woolley followed Babcock for more than 20 miles after initial suspicion that he was driving a car with a stolen license plate.

As Babcock drove east on county roads, Rosser and Sedro-Woolley Police Sgt. Paul Eaton went ahead of Babcock and laid spike strips at the corner of North Fruitdale and McGarigle roads. When Babcock swerved around the strips, Rosser, standing along the roadside, fired nine bullets at Babcock’s car and ultimately shot and killed him. 

In an extensive Skagit and Island County Multiple Agency Response Team (SMART) report on the incident, Rosser said officers feared for their safety because Babcock was attempting to strike them with his vehicle. Babcock’s family attorney told CDN in 2023 that he was driving at 12 miles per hour at the time, disputing the allegation. The SMART report verified the slow speeds, and indicated the bullet that killed Babcock struck him in the back of the head.

A graphic of a recreation of the crime scene that was analysed from body camera footage.
This illustration shows the estimated positions of Sedro-Woolley police officer Max Rosser and David Babcock’s vehicle as Rosser was firing his weapon at the car, based on a composite image in the Skagit and Island County Multiple Agency Response Team (SMART) report. The SMART team used body camera footage, site analysis and a recreation of the incident one month later to compose its image, one of many included in the report to illustrate a rapidly evolving incident. (Jaya Flanary/Cascadia Daily News)

After reviewing the SMART report, Skagit County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich chose not to charge Rosser with a crime, calling his use of force “justifiable.” Rosser returned to his job in November 2022. 

Nguyen said the plaintiffs are seeking accountability. At the time, the Washington state Legislature had passed HB 1054, which stated that police officers were not allowed to engage in a vehicle pursuit without probable cause to believe the person committed or is committing a violent or sex offense or is driving under the influence. Lawmakers have since rolled back some of the limitations

Sedro-Woolley’s police chief, Lin Tucker, now retired, had railed against the pursuit limitations on social media when they were enacted. The city revised its pursuit policies in the wake of the incident.

“Unfortunately, what happened here is all the officers involved chose to pursue this man anyway and he died because of it,” Nguyen said Tuesday. “Really what we’re really looking for is accountability for officers to follow the law … in nonviolent situations so that people don’t lose their lives.”

Officers who followed Babcock and attempted to stop his vehicle told SMART investigators they were not pursuing Babcock, as they didn’t have lights or sirens on and stayed 100–200 yards back from him. 

Elizabeth Babcock, David’s daughter, said Tuesday that the family decided to pursue the lawsuit after the prosecutor called Rosser’s use of force “justifiable.”

“Our lives changed,” David’s wife Regina Babcock said Tuesday. “He died on his granddaughter’s birthday … Even today, there are moments that something is said or comes up and we still burst out into tears.”

Elizabeth said she hopes the lawsuit brings her father’s death back into public consciousness again.

“It started to seem like it was just getting swept under the rug, like people were just starting to forget that this had happened,” she said. “But with the lawsuit, it’s bringing it back up again.”

Skagit County and the City of Mount Vernon both declined to comment on the case.

This article was updated at 2:10 on Tuesday, May 14 to include comments from Babcock’s wife and daughter.

Charlotte Alden is CDN’s general assignment/enterprise reporter; reach her at; 360-922-3090 ext. 123.

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