Tyrenn Smith died in a Kent car crash at the age of 17 in June 2020. He was a junior at Kentwood High School. COURTESY PHOTO, GoFundMe.com

Tyrenn Smith died in a Kent car crash at the age of 17 in June 2020. He was a junior at Kentwood High School. COURTESY PHOTO, GoFundMe.com

Man, 21, receives 15 months in Kent 2020 vehicular homicide case

Mother of Kentwood High student killed in crash requested lighter sentence for son’s best friend

A 21-year-old man will serve 15 months on electronic home detention after he pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and reckless driving in the 2020 Kent death of Tyrenn Smith, 17, a Kentwood High School student.

Damani Kekoa Tyau, 17 at the time of the June 2, 2020 single-vehicle crash with two passengers in his car, was sentenced Feb. 9 by King County Superior Court Judge LeRoy McCullough at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, according to court documents.

Smith, in the rear passenger seat, was killed when Tyau hit 78 mph and lost control due to excessive speed when he entered a sweeping corner in the 25400 block of West Valley Highway and hit a telephone pole, according to court documents. Tyau was not injured and other passenger, an 18-year-old man, suffered a broken arm.

Tyau, a 2021 Kent-Meridian High School graduate, will be on electronic home detention and received a lighter sentence than the standard range of 21 to 27 months for vehicular homicide/reckless driving for someone with no criminal history.

“This was a grievous error, but also an act without malice or intention to harm,” said King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office spokesperson Casey McNerthney in a Feb. 13 email about the lighter sentence.

“The parents of the victims were contacted and in particular the mother of the child (Smith) who died said that her son and the defendant (Tyau) were best friends and she did not support him going to prison for a long time,” McNerthney said. “The mother said she did not want the defendant’s life ruined due to this collision.”

McNerthney said the Felony Traffic Unit of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office decided that given the mother’s wishes, the age of the defendant and his lack of criminal history that if he agreed to 90 days jail consecutive to 364 days on electronic home detention (15 months total) that this would be a fair outcome.

A vehicular homicide (disregard for the safety of others) with a zero offender score has a range of 15 to 20 months, McNerthney said.

Prosecutors wanted to ensure accountability, which is why they sought 15 months.

“Also, the mother of the other victim involved did not want to be involved in the case,” McNerthney said.

The court is also required by law to look at someone who commits a crime while under the age of 18 with consideration for their age.

“For those reasons, prosecutors agreed to guilty pleas for vehicular homicide, reckless driving with 364 days on electronic home detention on the reckless driving count, 90 days confinement on the vehicular homicide count,” McNerthney said. “The counts are consecutive. He also was ordered to pay restitution, including funeral expenses, among other conditions.”

Tyau will begin serving his sentence on Feb. 26.

The crash

On June 2, 2020, Tyau was driving southbound in the 27700 block of West Valley Highway in his grandfather’s Hyundai Santa Fe (SUV) in Kent with two passengers. While stopped at a red light, he was rear-ended in a non-injury fender-bender, according to court documents.

The rear-ending vehicle did not stop but U-turned and accelerated away in the opposite direction.

Tyau U-turned and gave chase. He was attempting to catch up to the other vehicle which was fleeing at extremely high speeds, according to charging papers. Witnesses said Tyau was driving over 60 mph.

Later, collision reconstruction showed Tyau was speeding 78 mph when he lost control of the car and slid broadside into a telephone pole, with the right side of the SUV hitting the pole. The violence of the crash broke the pole off its base and loosened the basely deeply embedded in concrete in the ground.

Smith suffered catastrophic injuries and was killed during the crash. The other passenger suffered a broke arm. Tyau was not injured.

Tyua told police he chased the other vehicle in an attempt to get its license plate number. Witnesses said the hit-and-run vehicle was well ahead of Tyau.

Tyau turned 18 in February 2021. Material necessary documents were not received by the Kent Police for their investigation until after March 2021. Prosecutors filed charges against Tyau for vehicular homicide and vehicular assault in January 2023.

Smith’s life

Smith died just one day before his scheduled plane trip to Phoenix, Arizona to join his mother at their new home.

“Tyrenn was an amazing young man, an outstanding football player and loved nothing more then his family,” said Brenda Gammie, of Scottdale, Arizona, in a 2020 gofundme.com post to raise funds for Smith’s family. “Tyrenn’s mom just moved back home to Phoenix a few weeks ago and Tyrenn had a plane ticket on June 3 (2020) to Phoenix to join his mom and start their new adventure.”

Smith played running back and linebacker in 2019 as a junior for Kentwood, according to hudl.com. He wore jersey number 31.

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