Ten Years Ago, Kristopher Kime’s Death Began Journey Of Life For Five Others
by Jack Mayne
It was ten years ago today (Feb. 28) when Highline Community College student Kristopher Kime died after being hit by a 17-year-old runaway during a Mardi Gras melee in Pioneer Square, but Kime’s mother, Kim Parks is still recovering from the horrid event.
Parks said last week that she had just gotten an e-mail from LifeCenter Northwest that said, “Ten years ago, Kris Kime saved the lives of five people when he became an organ donor after being killed trying to save a woman’s life from an angry mob.”
LifeCenter Northwest is the organ and tissue program that services four Northwest states.
She said the knowledge that part of her son still lives in these people is “why I can sit here at my desk at work and deal with the things I need to deal with and I now have a photo of my son, Kris, on my desk and it has only been on my desk for about six months . . . because I just could not work seeing his photo. It is now there and even though his photo is in front of me, he is behind me pushing me all the way.”
Once Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, was a big community event in Pioneer Square, but not any more. Things have quieted down to the point the Seattle Police Department plans only its normal patrol of the area on March 8, this year’s celebration date.
In early morning of Feb. 28, 2001, Kime was celebrating with his friends in the streets that had mushroomed from drinking in bars to a night of rowdiness in the Pioneer Square streets.
Kristopher Kime, then 20, who worked in construction and attended Highline Community College, came to the aid of a lone woman on the ground being assaulted. One of them, 17-year-old Jerell Thomas, came up behind him and smashed a bottle on the back of Kime’s head. Kime never regained consciousness.
Seattle police detectives had played news video of the Mardi Gras mayhem to Thomas and said he identified himself as a young man who was attacking people, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported at the time. Thomas told officers he was angry because someone had hit him with a bottle, but that Kime had done nothing to provoke him.
Jerell Thomas was convicted by a jury in 2001 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the beating death. But, in 2005, the Washington state Court of Appeals overturned the conviction in a ruling that was not unexpected.
In 2008, Thomas pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter, avoiding a new trial. Thomas’ original conviction brought a 15-year sentence, but he was re-sentenced to 10 years for the lesser offense, the Seattle Times reported.
Thomas was released from jail on Dec. 7, 2009, after serving eight and one-half years. He was jailed again just two months later, in February 2010 after visiting an ex-girlfriend. Thomas was charged with two felonies in connection with the visit, but pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors and was jailed again. He was released just before last Thanksgiving.
Parks says she misses her son “terribly.”
“I try not to focus on the negative things,” she says, “I try to focus on the positive thing about the wonderful gift of life he’s given to these people. People we have talked to say, ‘You know, Kim, I have heard about what your son did and because of that, I have signed up to be an organ donor.’
“When I focus on the person who caused this, it makes me sick to my stomach, I feel kind of lost sometimes, and I just feel it is so unfair. I know that when he was in prison he could get visitors,” Parks said. “For me to go visit my son, I go out to Tukwila to the cemetery.”
“I have a real problem when I try to justify it to my own children and to my grand children when they start asking questions. They know all about uncle Kris, they know who he is, they know about him. But ‘how come, grandma, when bad people do things like that, they are not in jail forever.’ I kind of ask myself the same question, but it tears me up if I continue to focus on that.”
She says she was asked why Kime went to help the woman during the street fight.
“He was always taught that you never hit women for any reason and if somebody needs help, you go to help them,” Parks said. “The police were there, but they didn’t do what they were supposed to do. Because my son went to help someone, he lost his life.
Ten years ago, Mardi Gras was a big deal but today it has withered away to several Pioneer Square bars and clubs having in-house specials.
Kim Parks will not be attending.
“I don’t do Mardi Gras,” she said with emphasis. “That isn’t for me.”