Many police shootings involve mental health, substance abuse

By Andy Matarrese, Columbian Breaking News Reporter

Published:

 

Since 1997, there have been at least 24 local officer-involved shootings. In 17 of those incidents, the subject was killed; in at least 14 of those incidents, the subjects who were shot appeared to have a mental health problem, substance abuse issue or were otherwise “in crisis” at the time, according to official records and news clippings. Reviews by the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office found each shooting was a legally justified use of lethal force.

  • Douglas J. Michel, 33; injured March 22, 1997: An officer shot Michel as he attempted to take the officer’s SUV, following what prosecutors characterized as a methamphetamine-fueled crime spree.
  • Wayne Reed Jones, 39; killed July 6, 1997: Officers were called to a domestic violence call. The deputy later followed Jones, a methamphetamine user who reportedly had been drinking, into a barn. The deputy killed Jones when he came at him with a knife, according to officials.
  • Michael David Oakes, 30; killed July 13, 1997: A police officer shot Oakes when he reportedly attacked officers with a hatchet. Officers were responding after his mother reported he slapped her. She said Oakes had schizophrenia and was possibly intoxicated.
  • Tabitha DeSousa, 19; injured June 26, 2004: Deputies encountered DeSousa after responding to a trespassing call at a home. After cuffing DeSousa and another, a dog in the house somehow got loose and, according to officials, charged the deputies. They shot at it, and one shot hit DeSousa. The dog died.
  • Joseph V. Zabotel, 23; injured Aug. 3, 2004: A Vancouver police officer shot Zabotel following a report of a robbery and carjacking at a bank. When officers surrounded his car, he jumped out, threw cash in the air and began threatening officers, according to police. He repeatedly refused to drop his pistol, and an officer opened fire. Investigators thought drugs might have been a factor.
  • Jason Scott Wilkinson, 17; killed May 8, 2005: After officers attempted to contact a driver, Wilkinson, when responding to a report of a stolen van, the teen sped away. The van knocked over one officer and the other opened fire. Court records showed Wilkinson had a long-standing and severe drug problem, although it was unclear if other mental health issues were involved.
  • Douglas Damon, 64; killed Oct. 1, 2006: A Vancouver police detective shot Damon after responding to a complaint about homeless people in the woods behind a business. Damon didn’t obey several commands to show his hands, then pointed a realistic-looking toy gun at the detective, who fired. Damon struggled with alcohol abuse.
  • Sean Makarowsky, 24; killed June 16, 2007: Makarowsky was killed when officers served a search warrant on his home. Officers knocked loudly and shouted warnings outside the house, police said. One saw Makarowsky inside, with a gun, and fired. Makarowsky had no criminal record, and was not the target of the search. A girlfriend noted in a restraining order that Makarowsky had an unpredictable drug habit, but it’s not clear whether drugs factored into what happened.
  • Rocky D. Brown, 38; injured July 5, 2008: Brown was shot six times following an extensive chase. Brown drove toward two deputies who had exited their vehicles, and they fired at Brown. His blood-alcohol level several hours later was 0.256, and he had a history of mental illness.
  • Robert Kenneth Miller, 43; killed Oct. 7, 2008: Police officers killed Miller during a standoff. Police got a call from Miller’s estranged girlfriend, who said he threatened to kill her and himself. During the standoff, he fired his weapon toward officers. Officers returned fire, killing him. Authorities found a note and a journal that documented his suicidal thoughts. Investigators thought Miller’s plan was to kill himself and his girlfriend that night.
  • Nikkolas Lookabill, 22; killed Sept. 7, 2010: Lookabill walked out of his girlfriend’s home after he made threatening comments to her and was asked to leave. He left carrying a handgun. Witnesses described him as erratic and incoherent. Police were called, and shot him after he made threatening movements toward his gun. Lookabill was an Iraq war veteran, and took antidepressants to deal with post-traumatic stress symptoms. Investigators found he had drank up to four cans of Four Loko that night.
  • Anthony J. Pyle, 34; killed himself Oct. 12, 2010: Law enforcement was called to a report that Pyle shot his pregnant sister in the stomach. Officers found he was hiding in a shed nearby. He wouldn’t come out and, at one point, exchanged gunfire with police. Officers later found he had killed himself. His father later described him as an angry recluse who’d frequently threaten violence, and said Pyle’s abuse toward his family had been going on for years. The sister survived, but the fetus did not.
  • Stephen A. Lubeck, 19; injured Dec. 1, 2010: Lubeck pointed a gun at employees and patrons at a bank during an attempted robbery. An officer shot him in the leg after he reportedly threatened to fire at the officer. Lubeck’s weapon turned out to be a BB gun. Lubeck told officers he intended to get in a gunfight with officers, and his lawyer said he had substance abuse issues.
  • Jesse John France Jr., 29; killed Jan. 18, 2013: U.S. Marshals Service agents caught up with France after he failed to check in with his community corrections officer. During the encounter, France rammed an unmarked police vehicle. When an officer saw him reach for a gun, three responding officers opened fire. An autopsy found France was under the influence of methamphetamine and amphetamine.
  • Douglas E. Combs, 16; killed Jan. 25, 2013: A tip led police to Combs, who was already suspected in a shooting and two armed robberies from earlier that day. When police attempted to take him into custody, he ran. The boy reportedly reached for a gun while fleeing, and an officer fired. Records were unclear as to whether substance abuse or mental health issues factored into Combs’ actions, but he was placed in a drug treatment program in connection to a prior arrest for marijuana possession.
  • Darryl E. Humphrey Jr., 21; injured March 13, 2013: A fight broke out outside of a now-defunct nightclub, and in the course of the scuffle, Humphrey fired a gun, injuring a bystander. Police responded and shot Humphrey in the hip after he refused to drop the gun. Available records showed no indication that a mental health issue contributed to the incident.
  • Brent A. Graham, 55; injured Oct. 31, 2014: Law enforcement shot Graham in the leg, thinking he was an attempted murder suspect and subject of a county-wide manhunt.
  • Sebastian Lewandowski, 31; killed Nov. 25, 2014: Police shot Lewandowski after responding to an argument that led to Lewandowski setting an apartment on fire. Officers entered the complex an encountered Lewandowski, who appeared to be carrying an AR-15-style rifle, which turned out to be an Airsoft gun. When he refused to put down the weapon, officers opened fire. An autopsy found Lewandowski had a blood alcohol level of around 0.08, and witnesses said he had been growing increasingly depressed at the prospect of losing his place to live, due to issues with his roommates’ lease.
  • Amy Jean McCoy, 38; killed March 13, 2016: Officers killed McCoy when she advanced toward officers while wielding a hatchet and a knife, and a Taser didn’t stop her. Lab results found she had marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine in her system.
  • Kenneth Alan Pointer, 43; killed June 13, 2016: Pointer led police on a chase after robbing a bank. A deputy, thinking he was about to be shot at, fired at Pointer in his vehicle. A toxicology report found Pointer had methamphetamine and alcohol in his system. Pointer had two prior bank robbery convictions, but they were tried in federal court. The prosecutor’s office said Pointer may have been worried, wrongly, that an arrest would lead to a third strike and life sentence. No gun was found on Pointer.
  • Paul J. Kolar, 37; killed Dec. 13, 2016: A deputy shot Kolar when he reportedly leveled a weapon at him. The deputy was responding to a report of a prowler, and the incident remains under review.
  • Justin Andrew Burton, 25; killed Feb. 10: Officers shot Burton after he had barged into an occupied apartment and wielded a knife. Burton’s court records showed a substantial history of mental illness.
  • John J. Martin, 66; killed May 18: County corrections deputies shot Martin, a jail inmate, when, according to the sheriff’s office, “the inmate took action.” The sheriff’s office has not explained what happened, and the incident remains under review.
  • David W. Hamilton, 50; killed June 6: Officers forced Hamilton off the road during a chase after he robbed a bank. Hamilton and police exchanged gunfire. Hamilton was killed. The incident remains under review.