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News / Clark County News

Teen killed by Vancouver police officer was convicted last year in knife attack

Clayton Joseph pleaded guilty to assaulting a 14-year-old boy with knife

By Jerzy Shedlock, Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Published: February 22, 2019, 3:04pm

The 16-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a Vancouver police officer Tuesday night was recently convicted in Clark County Juvenile Court of assault involving a knife. Vancouver police say the boy brandished a knife at officers before he was shot.

Court records show that prosecutors filed affidavits on Nov. 16 against Clayton S. Joseph in juvenile court, alleging he committed two counts of second-degree assault.

Joseph was summoned to appear in the case Dec. 5. That same day, the state filed a probable cause affidavit detailing two incidents involving the teenager.

On the afternoon of Oct. 12, Joseph was armed with a large steak knife when he walked up to Michael Smith, age not available, who was standing in a public area north of Sterling Heights Apartments at 1221 S.E. Ellsworth Road, according to the probable cause affidavit.

“Without any provocation, Joseph then swung his knife toward Michael’s face. Michael was able to move and deflect the ‘swing,’ but asserts he would have been stabbed had he not moved and deflected,” the affidavit says.

The victim’s brother and another witness called 911, and Joseph walked off toward Ellsworth Elementary School. When Joseph arrived at the school, he tried to steal a 14-year-old’s skateboard by punching him in the face and threatening to stab him with the knife, according to the affidavit.

The 14-year-old boy was injured, the affidavit says, and he told police he thought the assailant was going to stab him.

In a police interview, Joseph acknowledged the attack and said he intended to stab the victims, according to the affidavit.

Police were dispatched to the same address on Southeast Ellsworth Road, where Smith was attacked, just after 11 p.m. Tuesday for a report of a disturbance between a male and female at an apartment complex. Witnesses reported that two males, both possibly armed, had then become involved in an altercation in the parking lot.

Police said that Joseph brandished a knife when approached by officers and refused commands to drop the weapon before he was shot by Vancouver police Cpl. Roger Evans, a 21-year veteran of the department.

Conner Bloxham, a friend who spoke on behalf of Joseph’s family, said they told him that Joseph was trying to stop someone from attacking their girlfriend.

Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Kim Kapp said Friday that police were familiar with Joseph before the shooting, because they had responded to the October incidents. They took a report and arrested him.

However, officers responding Tuesday night to a reported domestic assault and altercation in the parking lot at the apartment complex were not provided names of any of the people involved; dispatchers only relayed physical and clothing descriptions. Those descriptions were provided by residents of the complex who called 911, Kapp said. The people involved in the incident were later identified by police.

Dispatchers had not relayed information on previous calls related to the address, because it initially came across as the general address for the complex and not a specific apartment, Kapp said.

Community Support Program

Court documents show that Joseph was granted supervised release in his criminal case Dec. 5. He was enrolled in the Community Support Program, which required him to check in with the juvenile court on a regular basis. His mother also attended his hearing. He was officially charged with assault Dec. 19.

According to a summary of his participation in the program, Joseph was attending a re-entry program in the Evergreen school district, which is housed at Legacy High School. Joseph’s enrollment records show he transferred from Mountain View High School to Legacy High School on Nov. 15, a day before the probable cause affidavit was filed in Clark County Juvenile Court.

Evergreen Public Schools spokeswoman Gail Spolar said the re-entry program is designed for students who have been expelled or suspended from their traditional high schools; some of the students are dealing with matters in the court system. The school has strict attendance requirements, and in addition to providing regular class work, the teachers provide social and emotional intervention to prepare kids for their return to one of the district’s comprehensive high schools.

Spolar could not comment specifically on Joseph’s experience at the school due to federal privacy laws. Court records, however, show that Joseph had performed well in the re-entry program. He checked in every day and communicated with teachers.

“Clayton’s teacher told (the Community Support Program) that he had perfect attendance, and he completed the program on Dec. 17. Clayton is looking forward to attending Evergreen High School,” the summary says.

Another summary filed Jan. 16 says, “This is Clayton’s third consecutive review, all resulting in good compliance levels.” The prosecution amended Joseph’s charges the same day, reducing one of the counts for second-degree assault to fourth-degree assault.

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Joseph pleaded guilty to the charges nearly a month later. He wrote in a plea statement that he intentionally assaulted Smith and the 14-year-old with a knife. He was scheduled to be sentenced March 6. The prosecution planned to recommend a suspended sentence of 15 to 36 weeks in a juvenile facility, 24 hours of community service and 12 months of probation, according to the plea agreement.

Reporter Katie Gillespie and Assistant Metro Editor Jessica Prokop contributed to this report.

Columbian Breaking News Reporter