Auburn Officer Was Speeding, Drunk When He Fatally Struck Pedestrian on Seattle Street, Prosecutors Say


King County prosecutors say an off-duty police officer was driving 55 mph over the speed limit seconds before he lost control of his Mercedes-Benz, drove onto a sidewalk, sideswiped a telephone pole and fatally struck a pedestrian Saturday night in Seattle's Interbay neighborhood.

Michael L. Smith, 33, was charged Wednesday with vehicular homicide, accused of driving drunk when he hit and killed Clifford Jones, 65,  while trying to turn right onto Gilman Drive West from 15th Avenue West, charging papers say. Smith was also charged with reckless driving and felony hit-and-run for an earlier fender bender with a taxi cab, say the charges.

Smith, who was arrested by Seattle police at the fatal crash scene, posted $200,000 bail and was released Monday from the King County Jail, records show. He's scheduled to be arraigned May 11. Court records do not yet indicate which attorney is representing him.

The charges identify Smith as "an off-duty patrol officer with a local King County police agency" who was put on administrative leave as a result of his arrest.

Smith was hired by the Auburn Police Department in January 2021 after short stints working for Bellevue police and the University of Washington Police Department, according to public records obtained by The Seattle Times.

Prosecutors have asked that a judge order Smith not to possess or consume alcohol or nonprescription drugs, enter any businesses where alcohol is the primary commodity for sale,  or drive without a valid license, insurance and proof that an ignition interlock device has been installed on his vehicle, according to the charges.

Prosecutors have also asked that Smith be ordered not to possess any guns or leave  the state without  a judge's permission.

Toxicology results are pending on a blood sample taken from Smith.

The charges say Smith told Seattle police he and his 30-year-old girlfriend attended Saturday's Seattle Mariners game, where he had two mixed drinks before leaving in the seventh inning. He did not provide information to officers about where he and his girlfriend went after leaving the game.

Smith was driving north on Alaskan Way  shortly after 10:30 p.m. when he struck the right, rear bumper of a taxi cab at the intersection with Madison Street, the charges say.

The taxi driver later told police that the driver of the vehicle that struck him opened the taxi's front passenger door and tried to grab him, according to the charges. Uncertain of the man's intentions, the taxi driver crossed Alaskan Way and told the other driver he was calling police, the charges say. At that point, the man — later identified as Smith — got back into his car and drove off without providing his contact or insurance information, according to the charging papers.

The taxi driver and his passenger, who waited at the scene for police to arrive, were not hurt.

Thirteen minutes later, after speeding north on 15th Avenue West and crossing into the southbound lanes to pass slower vehicles, Smith tried to make a right turn onto Gilman Drive West, struck Jones and continued over a grassy embankment, striking three mailboxes, the charges say.

When a witness checked on Smith and asked if he was all right, Smith replied that he was OK, then pointed at Jones and said, "he's not," according to charging papers.

Jones died at the scene. Smith and his girlfriend were not injured.

A police officer who responded to the fatal crash scene reported that Smith had difficulty answering basic questions and stumbled as he walked to the officer's patrol vehicle, the charges say. A drug-recognition officer was called to the scene and determined Smith smelled of alcohol, had watery, bloodshot eyes and slurred his speech, say the charges.

Data from the air bag control module in Smith's Mercedes-Benz showed he was driving at 85 mph five seconds before the collision, charging papers say. The posted speed limit on 15th Avenue West is 30 mph.