By Holly Matkin and Sandy Malone
Clark County, WA – A panel of five Washington state prosecutors has concluded the deputy who fatally shot Jenoah Donald during a traffic stop in February acted justifiably and will not face any criminal charges.
The elected prosecutors, who hail from Pierce, Snohomish, Pend Oreille, Yakima, and Lewis Counties, have been reviewing the case since late April, The Olympian reported.
“We all agreed on the conclusion…that no criminal charges should be filed,” Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer told Oregon Public Broadcasting.
The prosecutors said Clark County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Deputy Sean Boyle acted “in good faith” during the Feb. 4 traffic stop, The Olympian reported.
“Donald’s refusal to exit the vehicle quickly escalated and Deputy Boyle, unable to reach his Taser, drew his weapon and shot Mr. Donald to protect himself and other deputies,” they concluded.
The incident occurred at about 7:37 p.m. when deputies responded to the 6500-block of Northwest Jordan Way for a call about two suspicious vehicles were circling the block, The Columbian reported.
The Vancouver Police Department’s synopsis of the incident showed the 911 caller had “expressed frustration with the ‘drug house’ and ‘constant barrage of issues affecting the neighborhood.’”
Dispatch records showed that police have responded to calls in that area more than 40 times since June of 2020, The Columbian reported.
Deputy Boyle spotted a bronze Mercedes Benz with Oregon license plates and a defective tail light on 68th Street and stopped the car.
The driver – later identified as 30-year-old Donald – handed the deputy a Washington identification card but had no proof of registration or insurance, The Columbian reported.
The affidavit for a search warrant said that Donald told Deputy Boyle his license had been suspended.
Clark County deputies had also cited Donald for driving on a suspended license on Jan. 21, The Columbian reported.
Court records showed that Donald has been cited for numerous traffic violations in Clark County.
Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Holly Troupe arrived on the scene and took up a position outside Donald’s passenger door to cover Deputy Boyle as he returned to his vehicle, according to The Columbian.
Deputy Troupe told investigators there were some worrisome items inside Donald’s car, including a “ball-handled” object with a 3- to 4-inch sharpened “stake” on the end that was sitting near the center console, according to the investigative synopsis.
Investigators said that Deputy Troupe told them she ordered Donald multiple times to keep his hands visible, but the driver ignored her and reached behind his back to pull out a cell phone and pliers, The Columbian reported.
The investigative synopsis said that Deputy Boyle saw the situation escalating with Deputy Troupe at about the same time Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Agar arrived on the scene.
Investigators said Deputy Boyle returned to the suspect’s vehicle, opened the car door, and asked Donald to step out of the Mercedes, The Columbian reported.
Donald refused to comply with the deputy’s orders so Deputy Boyle and Deputy Troupe attempted to pull the driver out of the vehicle, according to the investigative synopsis.
The suspect failed to comply even after he was threatened with a police dog, The Columbian reported.
“Deputy Boyle, as a ruse, informed Jenoah Donald that he would send his K-9 to bite Jenoah Donald if he did not stop resisting,” the affidavit for the search warrant read. “This did not gain compliance and Jenoah Donald continued to struggle with Deputy Boyle and Troupe.”
Deputy Boyle, a 21-year veteran of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, is a K9 handler but he never got his dog out of his vehicle after he stopped Donald that night, The Columbian reported.
The affidavit said that Deputy Boyle had the most contact with Donald during the ensuing struggle because there wasn’t really room in the door area for Deputies Troupe or Agar to get in and help.
Investigators said that Deputy Troupe said she was worried the Donald was going to use his free hand to grab the sharpened item in his car and assault Deputy Boyle with it, The Columbian reported.
“Deputy Troupe attempted to gain ‘pain compliance,’” by putting finger pressure under Donald’s jaw, but that did not seem to have any effect on the suspect, according to the search warrant affidavit.
Investigators said Deputy Boyle told them he felt Donald pull on his outer ballistic vest and got yanked into the car, The Columbian reported.
Deputy Boyle said he ordered Donald to let go of him and punched him in the nose as they fought but the suspect’s only response was to ask “really?” according to the affidavit.
The deputies told investigators they heard Donald start his car’s engine during the struggle, The Columbian reported.
Deputy Boyle said he continued to try and get free as the deputies heard Donald rev the engine and “wheels spinning,” according to investigators.
“Deputy Boyle felt the vehicle begin to move forward, and fearing he was going to be killed, he drew his firearm (Deputy Boyle is left-handed) and gave Mr. Donald a verbal warning to stop or he would be shot,” the investigators synopsis read, according to The Columbian.
Deputy Boyle fired two shots and one struck Donald.
The investigative synopsis said Deputy Boyle pushed himself out of the moving vehicle and the car went on until it struck a fence in a neighboring yard, The Columbian reported.
All three deputies immediately approached the vehicle and pulled Donald out of it so they could render first aid.
Donald was transported to the hospital and died a week later when his family removed him from life support, The Columbian reported.
Lawyers for Donald’s family have called for the arrest of Deputy Boyle, The Columbian reported.
“The officer should be arrested and held accountable,” attorney Lara Herrmann told Oregon Public Broadcasting shortly after the shooting.
Mark Lindquist, another attorney for the family, said the incident served as “an unfortunate cautionary tale about what happens when officers do not practice de-escalation,” The Columbian reported.
“Deadly force should be a last resort. Legally and morally,” Lindquist told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “There were three tactically trained officers on the scene in full gear. They have tasers, pepper spray, and other non-lethal weapons. There was no good reason to shoot Jenoah in the head.”
Donald’s mother, Sue Zawacky, released a statement Tuesday saying the panel of prosecutors let her family down, The Olympian reported.
Zawacky demanded Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson open an investigation into the officer-involved shooting, but his office later said he lacked jurisdiction to intervene.
“We hope the officers will resign for the good of the community because they don’t have the patience and skills for the job,” Zawacky declared.
Lindquist said that “accountability and justice” will come as a result of the $17 million wrongful death lawsuit he is filing against Clark County on Donald’s family’s behalf, The Olympian reported.
“What’s clear is the officers unnecessarily escalated a petty traffic stop into a fatal shooting,” the attorney declared.