UPDATE: Friend of teen killed by police pleads guilty

Judges lawyer say he narrowly missed being shot himself

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter



A deputy prosecutor, a defense attorney, a juvenile court judge and a Vancouver mother all agree: Nehemiah Rudner-Singleton is lucky to be alive.

The boy, 16, was in a nearly identical situation as his companion Douglas E. Combs on Jan. 25 when the two boys left Pop Culture in downtown Vancouver and encountered police, who had set up a perimeter and staked out the business.

Both teens were armed with weapons when they split up and ran from law enforcement: Combs ran up an alley and Rudner-Singleton ran down a street, according to court record.

Combs, who had been implicated in a crime spree that includes two robberies and a home invasion and shooting earlier the same day, was later pronounced dead. Police had shot him in the back in a parking lot at C and 20th Street, authorities said.

Rudner-Singleton was apprehended nearby after he collided with a police car, according to the court record. He was arrested on suspicion of unlawfully possessing a firearm.

Rudner-Singleton pleaded guilty Monday to attempted second-degree assault with a deadly weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 30 days in custody with credit for the nine days he has already served.

Additionally, he will be on probation for 12 months and perform 40 hours of community service.

Officer feared for his safety

Documents filed Monday in support of a new charge, attempted second-degree assault, lend insight into just how close Rudner-Singleton came to sharing Combs’ fate.

As Rudner-Singleton ran from police, he put his hand in his pocket as he turned to look back at Vancouver police Officer Greg Hibbard, according to court record.

“At some point, I pulled my gun and pointed at him,” Hibbard wrote in a police report. “I was yelling at him to stop or I was going to shoot.”

Police had information that there were two firearms associated with Combs. So when Rudner-Singleton hid his hand in his pocket, Hibbard feared for his safety. The attempted assault charge stems from that fear.

“At this point, I was screaming at him that I was going to shoot him because I believed he was going to pull a gun on me,” Hibbard wrote.

He did not, however, shoot.

Rudner-Singleton collided into another police car, but kept running before he fell over, according to court record. Hibbard then took him into custody. The gun, a .380 semi-automatic handgun, was found about four to five feet away from where he collided with the police car, according to court documents.

Karen Peterson, Rudner-Singleton’s attorney, said that her client “didn’t realize how close he was to being shot.”

She said that Rudner-Singleton’s first mistake was deciding to go to Pop Culture with Combs. His second was taking a gun from Combs and the third was running from police.

“I hope he learns that it’s better to stop when you make a mistake,” she said.

Court Commissioner Dayann Liebman referenced the candlelight vigil held Friday, where about 50 of Combs’ friends gathered outside Pop Culture to remember their friend who died.

“That could have been for you as well,” Liebman said.

At Monday’s hearing, Rudner-Singleton’s mother, Monica Porter, expressed thankfulness to Hibbard.

“That officer exercised extreme …,” searching for a word, she paused, “restraint,” she said.

“I know Nehemiah. I know my child,” she said, adding that he wouldn’t hurt anyone.

“(Hibbard), he doesn’t know Nehemiah,” she said. “I hope this is a huge wake-up call.”

Emily Gillespie: 360-735-4522; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops; emily.gillespie@columbian.com.

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