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Family of murdered informant files claims against Cowlitz, Wahkiakum counties

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The parents of a slain Longview drug informant have filed claims against Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties, saying narcotics detectives coerced 26-year-old Jeremy McLean into their service, then failed to protect him from a drug dealer he'd helped police snare.

McLean, who was murdered by William Vance Reagan Jr. in late 2008, was arrested on drug-related charges and "was forced to sign a plea agreement ... in order to avoid incarceration," according to documents filed late last month. The terms of the plea agreement required McLean to become an informant for the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Narcotics Task Force, according to the claim, which was filed on behalf of McLean's parents by the Seattle law firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala.

McLean's participation in covert drug deals put him "at grave risk of being discovered and harmed by the people he sought to help (drug agents) indict," McLean family lawyers said in the documents. McLean helped police bust at least ten drug dealers, including "his eventual murderer, William Reagan," lawyers said.

Cowlitz officials declined to comment on the claims Thursday. Wahkiakum officials could not be reached.

Reagan bailed out of jail Aug. 21, 2008, the day after his arrest, and "immediately began selling and consuming drugs," which breached the terms of his release, the lawyers said. Yet, documents said, Cowlitz County's Offender Services division, which is charged with monitoring defendants upon their release, never tested Reagan for drug use and never booked him back into the jail despite the alleged violations.

Meanwhile, Reagan "began publicizing his intent to kill Jeremy McLean for participating in Reagan's criminal investigation" and started recruiting community members to help. McLean learned of Reagan's threats and "made multiple requests" for task force agents to "help protect him."

"But they did not take action," the lawyers said of the drug agents.

On Dec. 29, 2008, Reagan, then 52, had an associate lure McLean to an RV. Investigators said Reagan, who had been hiding in a closet with a .22-caliber pistol, shot McLean three times in the back and top of the head and once in the face. McLean's body was found along the Columbia River in Willow Grove County Park on New Year's Eve.

Reagan, who was sentenced to life in prison, confessed to the killing, saying he was trying to keep McLean from testifying against him.

"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 said in the claims.

In addition, the documents said McLean's murder was "a direct result of Offender Services' utter failure to adequately supervise William Reagan" while he awaited trial on drug charges.

Three claims, each asking for $200,000 in damages, have been filed against Cowlitz County — one on behalf of McLean's mother, Shelly McLean, another on behalf of his father, Mitchell McLean and a third on behalf of Jeremy McLean himself. A single claim, also asking for $200,000, has been filed against Wahkiakum County.

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