Port Orchard, WA – The Kitsap County sheriff’s deputy involved in the officer-involved shooting death of a suspect who charged at him and his partner on an overpass while pretending to have a weapon will not face criminal charges in connection with the incident.
Kitsap County Prosecutor Chad Enright announced on Tuesday that Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Hren’s use of deadly force was “permissible under law,” and that he “reasonably believed” the suspect was armed, the Kitsap Sun reported.
Investigators later determined the suspect, 36-year-old David Pruitte, was unarmed during the confrontation, but witnesses said they also saw Pruitte charging at deputies while appearing to reach for what they said they believed was a weapon.
“The statements from these witnesses would support he conclusion that Deputy Hren’s belief that Pruitte was armed was objectively reasonable given the manner in which Pruitte charged towards the deputies,” Enright said, according to the Kitsap Sun.
The incident occurred on the Bethel-Burley Road SE overpass above Highway 16 on Aug. 4, 2020, after concerned citizens called 911 to report a man was dangling his legs over the highway and that he could potentially jump to his death.
When Deputy Hren and fellow KCSO Deputy Joshua Puckett responded to the scene, Pruitte inexplicably charged towards them and “appeared to be reaching for an object in his pants,” Enright wrote in his findings, according to the Kitsap Sun.
“I was scared that he was going to shoot me,” Deputy Hren later told investigators with the multiagency Kitsap Critical Incident Response Team. “I was scared he was going to shoot Deputy Puckett. It was a short distance between the male (Pruitte) and us and we had absolutely no cover to get behind if the male began shooting at us.”
The deputies ordered Pruitte to stop, but he continued his advance, the Kitsap Sun reported.
Deputy Hren fired six rounds at him, hitting him five times.
Pruitte died of his wounds.
Enright said both deputies “cooperated” with investigators to help ensure “the scene was safe” after the shooting, but they did not make any additional statements that night, the Kitsap Sun reported.
They conducted a walk-through of the scene with investigators three days later, during which Deputy Puckett disclosed he had spoken with Deputy Hren after the shooting – not about the shooting itself, but to check in on one another’s “well-being,” according to Enright.
The deputies both retained the same attorney, Lisa Elliot, in the wake of the incident, the Kitsap Sun reported.
Enright said he does not believe Elliot violated any rules of professional conduct by representing both deputies, but noted he thinks “public faith in the investigation is diminished when that happens and the practice of co-representation should be avoided” in such instances.
“The continued practice of joint representation of suspects and witnesses further damages the already fragile public faith in law enforcement and confidence in deadly force investigations,” the prosecutor wrote, according to the Kitsap Sun.
“This problem is easily avoidable: suspects and witnesses should have their own attorneys dedicated to defending the rights and interests of their individual clients,” he added.
Kitsap County Sheriff John Gese said that although the deputies have the right to choose their attorneys, having the same lawyer “creates that kind of conflict of interest that nobody really wants,” the Kitsap Sun reported.
In the future, conversations between involved officers will be restricted, Sheriff Gese said.
There will also be a “gag order” barring officers involving in shootings from talking to family, friends, and others about the case “in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation,” Kitsap County Undersheriff Steve Duckworth told the Kitsap Sun.
The restriction is also supported by Dan Twomey, president of the Kitsap County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild.
The KCSO’s internal investigation into the fatal officer-involved shooting remains ongoing, according to the Kitsap Sun.
Sheriff Gese said he has reviewed Enright’s decision and that he appreciates the “review found no criminal culpability by our deputies,” the Kitsap Daily News reported.
“This was a tragic incident, and the loss of life has had profound impacts,” he said. “My thoughts go out to everyone who was affected by the events that occurred.”
Deputy Hren will remain on administrative assignment until the internal investigation is complete, Sheriff Gese told the Kitsap Sun.
The sheriff noted his office is moving forward with plans to implement bodycams and to increase training in crisis intervention and the use of “less lethal” options, the Kitsap Sun reported.
“The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office is committed to providing appropriate training and policies, and our training protocols are constantly being updated,” Sheriff Gese told the Kitsap Daily News. “New methods have already been introduced to further de-escalate incidents with people in crisis.”