Witnesses say a man who was shot and killed by Vancouver police late Thursday afternoon was armed and pointed two guns at himself, passers-by and responding officers.
Officers were called about 4:45 p.m. for a report of an armed suspect near West 12th and Jefferson streets west of downtown Vancouver. Shortly after, officers yelled that shots had been fired and said the suspect was down, with a firearm by his feet, according to emergency radio traffic monitored at The Columbian.
“Multiple callers called in saying a man was waving his guns and pointing them at people,” Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Kim Kapp said.
She confirmed that two officers fired their weapons; neither was injured. The officers have been placed on critical incident leave, standard department protocol in an officer-involved shooting. They likely will not be identified until Monday, she said.
Kapp did not identify the man who was killed.
Joe Newsome, who witnessed the shooting, said he had just gotten off work in the area and was walking home when he saw a man holding a gun, screaming at passing vehicles. The man was waving the firearm, Newsome said, and pointing it at his own head.
Not long after, police arrived on scene, he said, and repeatedly ordered the man to drop his weapon before shooting him. Newsome said he thought he heard four or five shots.
“I knew it was a matter of time,” Newsome said of the shooting. “The neighborhood down here is the ghetto. The city ignores it; they push all of the low-income and homeless into this corner.”
Several neighborhood residents said they knew the man who was killed. They said he was homeless and frequented the area.
Just before the shooting, an employee at Second Hand Solutions Thrift Store & Coffee Shop, 915 W. 13th St., alerted people inside that a man was outside waving a gun. The employee locked the doors, said Mark Roskam, the chaplain at Open House Ministries, which operates the thrift store. The doors remained locked well after the shooting.
Roskam said the man had two guns to his head and then pointed them at responding police.
“It sounds like suicide by cop,” he said.
Clifford Boswell was visiting his brother, Troy Boswell, in the area when he saw a man flailing about. He heard his brother call the man by name, he said, and Troy Boswell tried to calm the man down before four or five shots rang out.
Clifford Boswell estimated that a few seconds had passed between when police first contacted the man and the shooting.
“They didn’t even talk to the guy, didn’t even try to calm him down,” he said.
Another witness, Fernando Bonilla, said he was driving by the corner before the shooting and waved at the man, who appeared to be dancing because of the loud music coming from Bonilla’s car.
“At least, I thought he was just dancing. Then I saw him point two guns at his head,” Bonilla said.
Bonilla drove around the corner, but by the time he came back around, he said the man had been shot.
Newsome said he encountered the same man around noon when he was on his lunch break. The man was “obviously distraught, his emotions were everywhere,” he said, and he tried to start an altercation with Newsome.
Later, when he got off work, Newsome decided to walk home on another block to avoid the man, he said.
“Luckily, I had that altercation with him earlier or I would have walked right by (the shooting),” he said.
The Regional Major Crimes Team is investigating the shooting.
Third police shooting
This is the third recent officer-involved shooting for the Vancouver Police Department.
On Feb. 19, Vancouver police Cpl. Roger Evans fatally shot 16-year-old Clayton Joseph while responding to a disturbance at a Southeast Ellsworth Road apartment complex. Police said the boy had brandished a knife and refused commands to drop the weapon before he was shot.
Two weeks earlier, on Feb. 5, a lengthy police chase from Vancouver to Portland erupted into gunfire on Interstates 205 and 84, ending with the arrest of Erkinson K. Bossy, 23, a suspect in the slaying of Kelso convenience store clerk Kayla Chapman. Vancouver police Officer James Porter, 28, fired his weapon during the chase and was treated for injuries that were not life-threatening, according to a department press release.