Redmond, WA — If you were to read the headlines in September 2020, the story of Andrea Thomas Churna likely wouldn't have grabbed your attention. Countless people likely scanned over her story as they read that a woman was shot dead after she "confronted officers with a handgun." It was a cut and dry case and the officer was immediately justified.
But Churna's case was not cut and dry and her family would eventually come to learn that she was not armed and she never confronted the officer who gunned her down with a handgun. Churna had called police for help that night — thinking that she was being stalked by her ex-boyfriend — and when Redmond officer Daniel Mendoza showed up, instead of helping this woman in need, he executed her.
The taxpayers of Redmond are now footing the bill for Churna's execution to the tune of $7.5 million. Though no amount of money will bring her back, this lawsuit is helping to expose an innocent woman's murder and the law enforcement apparatus which covered it up and exonerated the murderer.
On the night she was killed, according to her estate's attorney, Kim Zak, "she was worried that a stalker was trying to get her because she had had a bad experience with an ex-boyfriend before, and that’s what she was afraid of.”
Churna was a law-abiding gun owner and was in possession of a gun that night, fearing that her ex-boyfriend was going to hurt her. She told police she had a gun and because her father was a retired police commander, she knew everything she was supposed to do when police arrived.
When the officer arrived to "help" Churna, she did as police asked. She put the handgun down inside her apartment and walked out of the front door with her hands in the air. Wearing only a t-shirt and yoga pants, Churna did exactly as officer Mendoza ordered — she laid face-down in the hallway of her apartment and put her hands out.
Despite complying with all of his orders, the officer, who had been on the job for just 18-months, took aim with his AR-15 and put 6 rounds in her back, executing the unarmed, innocent mother, who called the police for help. Churna's execution was gruesomely similar to how officer Philip Brailsford murdered Daniel Shaver as he begged for his life, unarmed in a hotel hallway.
After executing Churna, police would find her handgun inside her home, on the balcony where she told them she left it.
Recommended for You
“She called them for help,” Michael Thomas, Churna’s father told the Seattle Times back in December. “And they killed her for it. This is a nightmare for us. Where is the justice for my daughter?”
Only after the city paid out $7.5 million did Redmond Police Chief Darrell Lowe explain that the original information released to the press about Churna "confronting officers with a handgun" was inaccurate.
"I apologize to Andrea Thomas Churna's family and loved ones for the inaccurate statement made regarding the circumstances surrounding her death," Lowe said in a statement.
As KING 5 News points out, Lowe says the policy in place at the time of the shooting prohibits him from revealing the specific internal findings "until the conclusion of the inquest process and an actual filing determination by the prosecutors' office."
And that's exactly why the family is still in the dark and the officer who executed their daughter, still on the job. In fact, officer Mendoza has declined to give a statement to sheriff’s investigators or be interviewed about why he pulled the trigger — despite killing Churna 19 months ago.
According to the Seattle Times, several other officers at the scene — the only witnesses since there were no civilians in the hallway, no surveillance cameras and none of the officers wore body cameras — were sent home that night without talking to investigators.
The Redmond department is being so secretive in the death of Churna that even the King County Sheriff’s Office, who are conducting the outside investigation, have expressed frustration from the lack of cooperation.
“The statements that have been provided to us up to this point are not adequate or conducive for us to conduct a thorough investigation,” wrote King County sheriff’s Detective Sarah Gerlitz in an email to her supervisors Nov. 14, 2020, more than six weeks after the shooting.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Churna's father, a retired Michigan State Police commander who in his 32-year career investigated or oversaw investigations into dozens of police shootings and homicides himself. “Where are the charges? The facts are there. Andrea grew up in a law enforcement family. I feel guilty because her expectation was that if you called police, they would come and help.”