State Patrol investigation into wreck involving trooper will take 3-4 months. Legal action also threatened

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — It will take three or four months for the State Patrol to complete its investigation into the Nov. 29 three-vehicle wreck that involved Trooper Travis Beebe, a spokesman said Monday.

A lawyer is now investigating the accident on behalf of one of those in the crash and “will take all appropriate legal actions.”

The parents of a Forks motorcyclist who died in 2012 while being pursued by Beebe have started a petition urging the agency to fire him.

In addition, the motorcyclist's mother said, she is “very certain that we will be filing a lawsuit for wrongful death.”

In a telephone interview Monday, State Patrol spokesman Jason Hicks told the Peninsula Daily News that the agency's Major Accident Investigation Team has a backlog of 20 pending cases, pushing the conclusion of the Beebe review possibly to the end of March.

“Right now, they are down to three detectives,” Hicks said.

The State Patrol said last week that preliminary indications were that Beebe, 39, a 17-year State Patrol veteran assigned to the Port Angeles station, caused the crash while attempting to overtake a speeding vehicle at Morse Creek, a sharply curved, hilly section of U.S. Highway 101 east of the city limit.

Hicks said there were no serious injuries incurred in the crash, which involved two other vehicles and nine other individuals — three in a Toyota pickup truck and six in a Honda sport utility vehicle.

The Honda driver, Tigran Gyonjyan, 34, of Sammamish, was slightly injured and, according to the State Patrol, was treated at the scene by paramedics.

He has retained Bellevue lawyer Yan Siprin.

“Mr. Gyonjyan and his five passengers were all injured,” Siprin said in an email to Peninsula Daily News.

“My clients and I are investigating this auto accident and will take all appropriate legal actions as needed and as may be warranted by the facts developed in the course of my ongoing investigation.”

Beebe, whose $30,500 Crown Victoria patrol car was destroyed, is back on duty, with a used patrol car for his use, Hicks said Monday.

At a minimum, Beebe will receive a letter of reprimand if the State Patrol determines that Beebe caused the crash, Hicks said. He added that firing Beebe was not likely.

Saturday protest

About 50 to 70 demonstrators stood in frigid temperatures for about three hours Saturday near the Clallam County Courthouse, some waving signs that called for Beebe's termination.

The protest was organized by Colleen Larsen of Forks and other family members and friends.

Colleen Larson's son, motorcyclist Bjorn R. Larsen, 36, was killed May 8, 2012 after Beebe chased him at speeds reaching 90 mph up Deer Park Road east of Port Angeles.

The chase resulted in the motorcyclist and Beebe plunging off a steep embankment.

The State Patrol determined Larsen was at fault, but also suspended Beebe for a day without pay for violating the agency's vehicle-pursuit policy.

Colleen Larsen said her family is negotiating with an attorney on filing legal action over her son's death.

The Nov. 29 collision gives her more reason to file suit, she said.

“The State Patrol investigated themselves and concluded Beebe did not cause the death of Bjorn Larsen, and this gives us more grounds for our position,” she said.

“We are very certain that we will be filing a lawsuit for wrongful death against Travis Beebe and against the State Patrol.”

Larsen had told Saturday's group of demonstrators that the Peninsula Daily News had refused to print a “paid advertisement” announcing the demonstration.

She said Monday that she misconstrued a telephone discussion about not printing a letter to the editor from her husband accusing Bebee of “killing my son” as also meaning that the PDN would not print an advertisement about the demonstration.

She said she did not approach the newspaper about placing an advertisement.

Beebe's record

Hicks, the State Patrol spokesman, said the Nov. 29 collision and May 8, 2012, fatality are the only wrecks Beebe has been involved in during the last five years.

However, Sarah Battin, secretary-supervisor for the agency's human resources division, told the Peninsula Daily News that Beebe was involved in another collision Jan. 31, 2008.

The state keeps accident records on troopers for only five years.

She said records prior to 2008 have been destroyed in accordance with the records retention schedule of the state Secretary of State's Office.

Further information on the 2008 collision was unavailable Monday.

The PDN has requested copies of those records.

Beebe was recognized as the 2010 Trooper of the Year for the State Patrol's District 8, which includes the Peninsula and much of Southwest Washington to the Columbia River.

As of Monday, Beebe's termination was not a likely outcome of the investigation, Hicks said.

“We have a fair and equitable system when it comes to investigating these types of incidents that are agreed to by the troopers and the troopers association and the State Patrol,” he said.

“We just have to let the investigation run its course.

“If the individuals doing the investigation decide that it reaches the level of termination, that will be discussed, but right now, there is no indication it will reach that level.”

The Larsen family is circulating a petition asking the State Patrol to fire Beebe.

“We will try to gather more signatures on that petition and are kind of waiting to see what happens,” Karinn Larsen, Bjorn Larsen's sister, said Monday.

The family also is supporting another petition to change state law to modify State Patrol pursuit guidelines for pursuing motorcyclists.

“We feel like law enforcement should not engage in high-speed pursuits over a traffic ticket,” Colleen Larsen said.

All individual State Patrol pursuits are reviewed in pursuit data collection reports and reviewed by a State Patrol pursuit committee.

There is little difference in policies governing car and motorcycle pursuits, Hicks said.

Road spikes are not used when pursuing motorcycles — unless the motorcyclist has committed burglary, arson, robbery, rape, kidnapping or homicide, Hicks said.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 09. 2013 8:00PM
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