Former Redmond police chief Harris, teen die in car accident

Former Redmond police chief Steven Harris in 2009. - Reporter file photo
Former Redmond police chief Steven Harris in 2009.
— image credit: Reporter file photo

Former Redmond Police Department (RPD) chief Steven Harris, who spent 40-plus years in law enforcement, died in a head-on car crash at around 10 p.m. on Sunday night.

Harris, 68, was driving a Ford Explorer, which collided with a pickup truck driven by a 16-year-old boy along Redmond-Fall City Road at 244th Avenue Northeast, according to a Washington State Patrol press memo. Both drivers died at the scene.

The boy — identified by family and friends as Taylor Griffith, an Eastlake High School student — was driving eastbound and struck Harris' vehicle, which was traveling westbound. The pickup continued eastbound in the westbound lanes and struck a Mercedes and rolled over on its side in both lanes. Harris' wife, Margaret, was transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and is in critical condition. The 68-year-old driver of the Mercedes wasn't injured.

Redmond-Fall City Road near 244th was reopened at about 6 a.m. on Monday. The crash is under investigation.

Harris retired from the RPD on March 31, 2009 after 28 years of leading the department. At that time he was the third-longest-serving police chief in the state of Washington, with his tenure beginning in 1981.

"Police are always eager to go to work. I'm really proud of the department at all levels," Harris told the Reporter prior to his retirement.

Current RPD Chief Ron Gibson, who took over Harris' position in April 2010, spoke to the Reporter on Monday morning in the police department lobby.

"He was very supportive of me as coming into an agency he'd been the chief of for 28 years. So — quite the legacy as the chief of police," said Gibson, adding that Harris was once president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police from 1992-1993.

"He was very dedicated to his profession," Gibson continued. "A great guy — that's what I remember the most. He was one of those guys, when you meet him once, you're a friend for life."

Redmond Mayor John Marchione was first a City Council member and then mayor during six years of Harris' time as police chief.

"The news of chief Harris is very shocking. We are saddened by his death and we pray for the recovery of his wife," said Marchione, who added that Harris developed the police department from a small-town police force to a professional organization. "Chief Harris was the right chief at the right time. He arrived as a young chief in 1981 and led Redmond into the 21st century."

Gibson said that the Harrises had moved to Redmond Ridge in recent years.

The Harris family is requesting privacy at this time. Memorial services have not been determined.

Lake Washington School District communications director Kathryn Reith said there were additional counselors at Eastlake High on Tuesday.

"The school sent a message, with the permission of the parents, to the school community on Monday night, including the information on Taylor’s funeral," Reith said. "There are quite a few students in the school this week, between student leadership activities, sports practices and registration, so it was important both to communicate and provide support as soon as possible."


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