Another small-time drug user murdered after being coerced into becoming an informant, another lawsuit filed. Just days after Tallahassee, Florida, agreed to pay $2.6 million to the family of murdered informant Rachel Hoffman comes news that a Washington state family is suing two counties over the murder of their son, who was killed by a drug dealer he set up for police after being busted himself.
According to court documents in the case, McLean "was forced to sign a plea agreement... in order to avoid incarceration." That agreement required McLean to become an informant for the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Narcotics Task Force, which involved him helping police bust at least ten drug dealers.
The lawsuit charges that neither the Cowlitz County Offender Services Division, which was charged with monitoring Reagan after his release, or the narcotics task force, took adequate actions to secure McLean's safety.
According to the lawsuit, once Reagan got out of jail on bail, he "immediately began selling and consuming drugs," which breached the terms of his release, the lawyers said. Yet, the lawsuit claimed, Offender Services never tested Reagan for drug use and never booked him back into the jail despite the alleged violations.
While out on bail, Regan "began publicizing his intent to kill Jeremy McLean for participating in Reagan's criminal investigation" and began looking for allies to help. McLean heard the word on the street and "made multiple requests" to task force agents to "help protect him, but they did not take action."
On December 29, 2008, an associate of Reagan's lured McLean to an RV where Reagan was hiding. Reagan shot McLean four times in the head, killing him, and dumped his body along the Colombia River. Reagan later pleaded guilty to murder, saying he was trying to keep McLean from testifying against him and other dealers, and was sentenced to life in prison.
"The officers of the narcotics task force used their authority as law enforcement to create an opportunity for Reagan to attack and murder Jeremy McLean that would not otherwise have existed," lawyers for the McLean family argued. His death was also "a direct result of Offender Services' utter failure to adequately supervise William Reagan" while he awaited trial on drug charges.
The family has filed three claims against Cowlitz County, seeking $200,000 in damages on behalf of McLean and each of his parents and a single claim, also seeking $200,000, against Wahkiakum County.
The lawsuit will not bring back Jeremy McLean, but any light it shines on the unsavory practice of coercing small-time drug offenders into becoming snitches will be welcome, especially if it results in changes in police practices.