Vancouver, WA – Pierce County prosecutors have determined three Clark County sheriff’s deputies who fatally shot an alleged drug dealer after he pointed a gun at them were justified in using deadly force against their attacker.
The Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office took over the case after Clark County prosecutors requested an independent review of the Oct. 29, 2020 officer-involved shooting of 21-year-old Kevin Peterson, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mary Robnett and Chief Criminal Deputy James Schact announced on Monday that Clark County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Detective Jeremy Brown, Detective Robert Anderson, and Deputy John Feller acted lawfully during the encounter and will not face any charges as a result of the incident.
“There was no legal requirement for the officers to allow Mr. Peterson to fire first before defending themselves,” Robnett and Schact wrote, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. “They did not have to wait for him to pull the trigger.”
The alleged drug dealer’s family and their attorney, Mark Lindquist, announced back in March that they plan to sue Clark County over Peterson’s death.
“We are shocked an officer gets to shoot Kevin in the back because he’s tired of chasing him,” his family said in a statement after the shooting was found to be justified. “This is unfair and unsafe for everyone in the community.”
“Our laws do not allow an officer to shoot a suspect for running away,” Lindquist told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “I’m confident justice will prevail in the family’s civil lawsuit against the county.”
Despite Lindquist’s statement, the law does actually allow police to shoot suspects who are running away after committing an assault with a deadly weapon.
The family has not yet filed the lawsuit.
Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins told reporters shortly after the incident that Peterson “reportedly fired his weapon” at deputies during the Oct. 29 encounter, ABC News reported at the time.
Investigators said in an update in November of last year that they have not found any evidence that he actually fired his gun, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
“At this time, detectives do not have evidence that Peterson fired the handgun while in the U.S. Bank lot, based on involved deputy interviews,” the Lower Columbia Major Crimes Team said in a press release. “Additionally, no .40 caliber casings were recovered at the scene.”
The fatal shooting occurred in Hazel Dell at approximately 6 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2020, as Clark/Vancouver Drug Task Force detectives were investigating the alleged sale of Xanax pills in a Quality Inn parking lot, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
According to court records, Peterson sold 50 Xanax pills to a confidential informant that night, The Columbian reported.
As detectives moved in to arrest Peterson, he suddenly jumped out of his vehicle and took off running, police said, according to ABC News.
“A foot pursuit ensued where deputies from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office were chasing a man with a firearm,” Sheriff Atkins said during a press conference after the incident.
Police said Peterson allegedly dropped the gun at one point and was ordered to leave it on the ground, but he ended up grabbing it back up and running into a forested area, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
“Detectives did not pursue further due to Peterson being armed and advised other units by radio that Peterson was armed with a handgun,” the investigative team said in the press release.
The fleeing suspect soon wound up in the parking lot of a U.S. Bank, where he ran into more deputies, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
Deputies ordered Peterson to stop, but he ignored them and allegedly pulled a gun out of the pocket of his sweatshirt.
The armed suspect was headed northbound in the direction of yet another group of officers coming from that direction, according to investigators.
Det. Anderson fired at Peterson as he moved further north, KGW reported.
“I kinda just drew the line in the sand and I was — I said, ‘I’ve given suspect enough commands. If he takes another step, I’m gonna shoot him,’” Det. Anderson told investigators, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. “Um, he continued to run, I started shooting.”
Peterson continued running northbound and allegedly pointed his gun at Deputy Feller, who responded by firing his weapon at Peterson, according to investigators.
The suspect fell to the ground.
According to the investigative team, security footage from the nearby bank showed Peterson as he sat back up and pointed his gun at Det. Brown, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
Deputies fired their weapons to save Det. Brown, hitting Peterson multiple times.
“Deputy Brown advised investigators that by the time he fired, Peterson was pointing the handgun at him, and Deputy Brown did not know if he had been shot,” the investigative team said, according to The Columbian.
Peterson’s girlfriend, Olivia Selto, said she was on the phone with him during the chase, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
“When you can hear it in someone’s voice and see it in their eyes that they are terrified, you know they aren’t a threat to anyone,” Selto told the news outlet. “I’m worried about raising my daughter in a community, a world, that murderers walk away free.”
Because the wounded suspect was still armed with the gun, deputies requested a shield be brought to their location so they could approach him to render first aid, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
The shield was brought in just five minutes later, police said.
Peterson died of his wounds at the scene, ABC News reported.
Investigators found a .40-caliber Glock handgun near his body, Battle Ground Police Chief Mike Fort said.
They also allegedly located multiple pre-packaged amounts of Xanax pills during a search of Peterson’s vehicle, according to The Columbian.
The deputies involved in the fatal encounter each had well over 10 years of law enforcement experience at the time of the incident, The Columbian reported.
“It is tragic that Mr. Peterson lost his life,” Robnett and Schact wrote in their decision, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. “But he made the regrettable decision to distribute drugs and, in the course of felony drug dealing, threaten to shoot the police.”
Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik said he believes the prosecutors’ review was professional and accurate.
“While the loss of life in this case was tragic, I concur with the well-reasoned analysis of the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office in this case,” Golik told Oregon Public Broadcasting in a statement.
Clark County Undersheriff John Chapman also released a statement in the wake of the announcement.
“Incidents such as this are very difficult on everyone. The loss of life is tragic for all the parties involved,” Undersheriff Chapman wrote. “Although some may have expected or wished for a different outcome, we have placed our trust in the independent investigation protocols as put in place by the State of Washington.”
Hundreds of Black Lives Matter and antifa followers descended on Vancouver in the wake of the officer-involved shooting, the New York Post reported.
The mob soon clashed with a group of counter protesters who were carrying American and pro-President Donald Trump flags, leading to an all-out brawl, videos showed.
According to journalist Andy Ngo, rioters burned American flags, busted out the windows of nearby businesses, cursed law enforcement, and fired guns into the air during the chaos, the New York Post reported.
A large crowd marched through a residential area and shined lights into people’s homes while chanting, “Wake up, mother—kers!” another clip showed.
Area law enforcement buildings were vandalized during the night, including the prosecutor’s office, the sheriff’s office headquarters, the juvenile detention center and the adult jail, according to CNN.
One video showed rioters burning an American flag they had allegedly stolen from outside the Washington State Patrol building.