An officer has been cleared of any wrongdoing for shooting an alleged bank robber after the bandit fled from a Vancouver Wells Fargo Bank in December.
Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson sent a letter to the Vancouver Police Department that ruled Officer Jeffrey Anaya’s shooting “was justified and therefore lawful.”
After being placed on administrative leave, a standard procedure after officer-related shootings, Anaya returned to full patrol duty in late December. The officer has worked for the department for a year; prior to that, he worked for two years with the Oakland, Calif., Police Department.
Anaya had responded to a report of a robbery the afternoon of Dec. 1 at the VanMall neighborhood branch of Wells Fargo Bank. A man, purported to be armed, had held up the bank before running behind the nearby Ross Dress For Less store at 4708 Thurston Way, according to court files.
Anaya confronted the suspect behind the store; the robber pointed what appeared to be a semiautomatic pistol at the officer.
“While pointing this weapon at the officer, the suspect indicated he would shoot Officer Anaya unless he dropped his weapon in the next five seconds,” Jackson’s letter said. “Indicating that he feared for his life, Officer Anaya fired his gun, hitting the suspect with one round.”
The suspect, later identified as Stephen Lubeck, 19, of Vancouver was hit in the upper right leg. After Lubeck was taken into custody, other officers learned his weapon was actually a BB gun, Jackson’s letter said.
Still, Jackson ruled that Anaya thought it was a pistol and feared for his life. Washington allows an officer to use force when “the suspect threatens a peace officer with a weapon or displays a weapon in a manner that could reasonably be construed as threatening,” Jackson wrote.
Lubeck, who spent several days in the hospital before being booked in jail, faces first-degree robbery and second-degree assault charges.
He has not yet been arraigned in Clark County Superior Court, as his defense attorney first requested a mental health evaluation. He has a review hearing in court on his evaluation March 20.