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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Parents Claim County Threw Son to Wolves

VANCOUVER, Wash. (CN) - A drug task force turned a young man into an informant after he was busted for selling eight methadone pills, then failed to protect him from a dealer he snitched on, who shot him to death after announcing his intention to do so, the man's family claims in a lawsuit against Wahkiakum County.

Jeremy McLean, 26, was shot to death in December 2008 by heroin dealer William Reagan, who began plotting the murder one day after he was bailed out of jail, McLean's family says in their complaint in Clark County Court.

"In 2006, the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Narcotics Task Force (NTF) required Jeremy McLean to work as an undercover informant in increasingly dangerous drug transactions involving high-volume narcotics dealers in return for dismissal of charges against Jeremy for selling eight methadone pills," the complaint states.

"Although Jeremy had participated in thirteen sting operations resulting in the arrests of five area drug dealers and although Jeremy's confidential identity was becoming compromised, NTF refused to release Jeremy from his obligation, citing a technicality in the contract's language to perpetually force Jeremy's participation in more escalating and dangerous stings. Eventually, Jeremy was able to help NTF arrest and charge a major heroin distributor, William Vance Reagan, for manufacturing and selling heroin.

"After one day behind bars, Reagan was released on bail and immediately returned to a life of crime, returned [to] using and selling heroin, and publicly announced his intent to kill Jeremy for cooperating with NTF. Reagan even solicited members of the community to help him kill Jeremy. Jeremy notified NTF and its agents of the death threats from Reagan, but NTF misrepresented the known dangers of confidential informant work and provided empty promises of protection from William Reagan. In fact, NTF did nothing to either shield Jeremy from the known danger or re-arrest Reagan for his multiple violations of his pre-trial release order. As a result, Reagan ambushed Jeremy on December 29, 2008 and shot him three times in the back of the head, and once, a final, close-range shot, in the face, gruesomely ending Jeremy McLean's young life.

"Just a few days after Jeremy's young body was found on December 31, 2008, Cowlitz-Wahkiakum police presented a case with probable cause to arrest Reagan for selling heroin in violation of the pre-trial release order based on evidence that it had previously possessed but never previously used."

The family claims that they, and the task force, had received plentiful warning that Reagan was out to kill him.

"On August 27, 2008, Jeremy informed Officer Johnson that his mother received a telephone call from William Vance Reagan earlier in which Reagan states, 'This is Van. Tell Jeremy I am out of jail and that he better watch his back.' In response, Officer Johnston responded to by [sic] saying to Jeremy, 'Don't worry about it,'" according to the complaint.

"When Jeremy reported similar threats to defendants in September 2008, including a report from a friend who told Jeremy that he saw Reagan with a gun and that Reagan stated he was going to 'use this gun on [Jeremy],' defendants told Jeremy, 'It's just hearsay.'" (Brackets in complaint.)

The family says Reagan continued to use and sell heroin after being released, and refused to give urine samples, which was a condition of his bond.

"Even though Reagan could have been re-incarcerated for any one of those violations and even though Jeremy pled with defendant to do something about Reagan, defendant allowed Reagan to roam free while Jeremy received threatening phone calls from associates of Reagan trying to get him alone, and he was left to anguish alone in the knowledge that a dangerous person intended to kill him," the complaint states.

Reagan, 55, was sentenced to life in prison, according to local press reports.

McLean's parents, Shelly and Mitchell McLean, on their own behalf and on behalf of their son's estate, seek damages for negligence, gross negligence, and negligent hiring, training, and supervision.

They are represented by Darrell Cochran, with Pfau Cochran Vertetis and Amala, of Tacoma.

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