The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office found that the county sheriff’s deputies who shot and killed a Portland woman armed with a hammer and knife in March were justified in using deadly force.
Deputy Tom Yoder used a Taser to try to stop 38-year-old Amy Jean McCoy from advancing toward him and Deputy Joe McLoughlin, but when that failed to stop her, they feared for their lives and shot her several times, according to a letter dated Thursday that outlines the decision.
The letter, written by Chief Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson to Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins, gives the following account of events:
The incident began when a witness reported at about 4:20 p.m. on March 13 that he saw a Mini Cooper driven by McCoy traveling at a high rate of speed north in the southbound lanes of Northeast Covington Road in the Five Corners area.
The Mini Cooper nearly struck two oncoming vehicles, continued traveling at a high rate of speed and eventually crashed into a tree or pole near 7500 N.E. Covington Road.
McCoy was seen leaving the car wearing a scuba wet suit and motorcycle helmet and throwing multiple items from her vehicle. She then ran through multiple properties, climbed over fences and reportedly tried to push her way into a residence. She dropped a backpack and helmet along the way.
Mike Flader, who lives at 9606 N.E. 81st St., found McCoy in his backyard, where she had gone into a shed and came back out holding a large knife and hammer.
“Both are raised up high, in what appears to be a position ready to strike,” Jackson wrote.
Deputies Yoder and McLoughlin arrived to the confrontation and commanded McCoy to drop the weapons.
McCoy turned and began approaching the deputies, yelling, “kill me, kill me,” though Yoder said that she may have said, “I’m gonna kill you.”
Yoder used a Taser on McCoy, but that failed to stop her. As McCoy continued to advance, Yoder feared for McLoughlin’s life and fired several shots. McLoughlin, who also fired at McCoy, said he feared for his own life as well as Yoder’s and was concerned for Flader, who was still in the backyard.
Other deputies responded and began CPR until fire personnel arrived, but McCoy was pronounced dead at the scene several minutes later.
Lab results revealed that McCoy’s blood contained marijuana, cocaine and amphetamine. Medications and psychedelic mushrooms were collected from McCoy’s car, but further testing did not show any presence of psychoactive substances in McCoy’s system, according to the letter.
Under Washington state law, officers can use deadly force when they believe a suspect, if not apprehended, poses a threat of serious harm to the officer or a threat of serious physical harm to others.
The law goes on to state that type of threat exists when a “suspect threatens a peace officer with a weapon or displays a weapon in a manner that could reasonably be construed as threatening.”
“Applying the statutory and constitutional standards, it is my considered opinion that the conduct of Deputies Yoder and McLoughlin involved the objectively reasonable and justified application of deadly force under the circumstances then confronting them,” Jackson wrote.
Yoder, a 10-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, and McLoughlin, a 27-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, were placed on critical incident leave immediately following the incident and were cleared to return to work on March 31.