On Feb. 5, a gunbattle ensued between a Vancouver police officer and murder suspect during a chase on Portland’s freeways.
Two weeks later, a Vancouver police officer shot and killed a teenager armed with a knife while responding to a disturbance call.
The following week, on Feb. 28, two Vancouver police officers fatally shot a homeless man who was brandishing two replica firearms.
And on Thursday, two Vancouver police detectives shot and killed a man, whom they say had ties to street gangs, during a traffic stop in Hazel Dell.
The spate of officer-involved shootings this year appear to be the most for the police agency in recent history, based on Columbian archives.
Over the past 25 years, the Vancouver Police Department’s officers have been involved in at least 28 shootings. More than half of those, 16, have resulted in the death of the person shot; one person killed himself. In 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2017, Vancouver police were involved in at least three shootings each year. This appears to be the first year where there has been four.
Of those 28 shootings, 23 have been reviewed by the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, and all were ruled justified. Prosecutor Tony Golik said the other five shootings — the four most recent shootings, plus a Nov. 22 shooting that resulted in the suspect being wounded — have not yet been reviewed by his office.
“Certainly, just recently, there have unfortunately been a lot (of officer-involved shootings) in the last couple of months. It’s abnormal to have so many in such a short period of time,” Golik said in a phone interview Friday. “You can’t predict what law enforcement will face on any given day.”
Officer-involved shootings have recently drawn the attention of Washington lawmakers.
Initiative 940 was passed by voters in November and changed the standard for police use of deadly force. The new law, which was amended Feb. 4, requires an objective standard for determining an officer’s use of deadly force. Specifically, it asks whether another officer in the same situation would reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary.
I-940 also requires independent investigations of fatal shootings and the state to reimburse an officer for legal fees if the officer is acquitted, and altered the language concerning an officer’s duty to render first aid.
But Golik said questions remain about the definition of an independent investigation.
For instance, Clark County could run into problems if the SWAT team, consisting of multiple agencies, is called to a scene and officers from different agencies fire their weapons. That would cause difficulty determining which agency would conduct the investigation, he said.
As it stands, local officer-involved shootings typically result in an independent investigation conducted by a different agency.
An officer who fires a weapon is placed on critical incident leave, which is standard department protocol, during the shooting investigation.
When a Vancouver police officer is involved, the incident is usually investigated by the Regional Major Crimes Team, led by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, department spokeswoman Kim Kapp told media during a meeting Thursday. The investigating agency’s findings are then sent to the prosecutor’s office for formal review.
Golik’s office looks strictly at whether the shooting was lawful, he said, based on the facts of the incident and state statute. Any policy decisions related to the shooting are left up to the individual law enforcement agency.
“The shooting has to be lawful. We’re not doing a police review. We’re looking at whether it was a murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or legal action taken by the officer. The agency is going to look separately at policy. We’re looking at if a crime was committed,” Golik said.
Once the investigating agency has the majority of its findings, it holds a briefing to share basics of the investigation for the sheriff or police chief, depending on the agency involved and that agency’s administrative team, Golik said. Up until that briefing, the officer involved usually remains on paid critical incident leave. The briefing allows the sheriff or police chief to decide whether the officer should resume their duties, he said.
Golik’s office receives a similar briefing around the same time. However, the prosecutor’s office does not make any decisions on whether a shooting is justified until the investigation is completed and sent to Golik for formal review, he said.
When the investigation is turned over to his office, Golik and the chief deputy and chief criminal deputy prosecutors review the shootings. The review process takes approximately 30 days. However, it can vary based on the amount of information provided. Some shootings are straightforward, Golik said, while others involve a number of witnesses and multiple scenes. His office looks at every photo and video, and thoroughly reads every transcript and police report, he said.
Golik said the sheriff’s office, which is leading the investigation into the Feb. 19 fatal shooting of 16-year-old Clayton Joseph, should be completed within a week or two. Police Cpl. Roger Evans, who shot Joseph, returned to full duty Saturday, Kapp said.
Here’s a snapshot of Vancouver police shootings since 2017:
• Justin Andrew Burton, 25, killed Feb. 13, 2017: Burton reportedly stole a car after getting into a confrontation with its owner. Later, he crashed the car near apartments close to Vancouver Mall, and ran inside one of the complexes, according to police records and a prosecutor’s office review. Burton barged into an apartment, where a man and his roommate’s children were still inside. The tenants hid in a bedroom, and at some point, Burton acquired a knife. Law enforcement officers went inside and saw Burton flash the knife. A police officer subsequently shot him.
• Dominic Tovar, 24, injured Feb. 25, 2017: An officer fired his weapon at Tovar after he was nearly struck by Tovar’s car during an interrupted drug deal in Uptown Village. Tovar quickly reversed his parked car toward the officer in the Walgreens parking lot, prompting the officer to fire through the back window. Tovar was struck by gunfire on his right arm, shoulder and back.
• David W. Hamilton, 50, killed June 6, 2017: Officers forced Hamilton off the road during a chase after he robbed a bank. He had entered the bank wearing a ski mask and wielding a semi-automatic rifle. Hamilton and the pursuing officers exchanged gunfire near the intersection of Northeast 182nd Avenue and 73rd Street.
• Brad Lee Reeves, 30, no injuries, April 4: Reeves prompted an intense hourslong search in which two officers fired their weapons. Leading up to the manhunt, Reeves allegedly fired shots at a man, who was going off-roading, at the end of Erwin O. Rieger Memorial Highway, near Vancouver Lake on March 29. Then on April 3, he allegedly led police on a car chase during which he rammed a pursuing patrol vehicle. He allegedly eluded police a second time the next day. Police were then called to the Rose Village neighborhood for a report of a suspicious vehicle and found Reeves inside. He ran, and SWAT members joined police in combing the neighborhood. Reeves was found hiding in a yard.
• Demarcus D. Roundtree, 31, injured Nov. 22: Roundtree was shot during a traffic stop on Thanksgiving after he was found inside a suspected stolen vehicle near the East Fourth Plain Boulevard onramp from southbound Interstate 5. He fled in the vehicle. The car was later found abandoned near the intersection of East Fourth Plain Boulevard and E Street, and Roundtree was found nearby in a parked vehicle. Roundtree was under the influence of intoxicants during the incident, his defense attorney Dustin Richardson said. Roundtree had borrowed the stolen Honda Accord from a friend, Richardson said.
• Erkinson K. Bossy, 23, no injuries from the shooting, Feb. 5: A lengthy car chase that started in Vancouver erupted into gunfire on interstates 205 and 84 in Portland. Bossy, a suspect in the fatal shooting of Kelso convenience store clerk Kayla Chapman, was arrested following the chase. A pursuing officer sprayed more than 40 rounds from his AR-15 rifle from the passenger’s seat through the front windshield at the fleeing pickup. The same officer was injured after flying debris hit him in the face. Bossy was also injured in the chase but not from the shooting, police said. They have not disclosed the nature of Bossy’s injuries. The incident is still under investigation. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing the Portland Police Bureau’s investigation.
• Clayton Joseph, 16, killed Feb. 19: Joseph was shot while officers responded to a disturbance call at an apartment complex on Southeast Ellsworth Road. According to information released by police, witnesses reported that Joseph’s older brother, S. Mate Joseph, 22, assaulted a pregnant woman. The woman was barefoot, screaming, crying and attempting to get away from the older Joseph, police said. While waiting outside for police to arrive, two adult residents who reported the incident were confronted by Clayton Joseph, who was angry that they called 911. They said he slashed at them and threatened them with a knife, forcing one of them to jump out of the way to avoid being stabbed. The teen brandished the knife at responding officers and refused to drop it when ordered, police said. He was subsequently shot in the chest. The investigation is not yet complete.
• Michael Eugene Pierce, 29, killed Feb. 28: Pierce was shot after police responded to calls of an armed person near West 12th and Jefferson streets. Witnesses said Pierce was pointing two firearms at himself, passers-by and police. Officers said he refused to follow their commands, and he was shot in the chest. The investigation into the shooting is ongoing, but so far, police said the two firearms retrieved from the scene were realistic-looking black and chrome replica pistols. At a candlelight vigil March 1, friends said Pierce was known to carry brightly colored pellet guns that he treated as toys. Pierce’s family said he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia as a teen and had stopped taking his medication; he was also homeless. The investigation is not complete.
• Carlos Markein Hunter, 43, killed Thursday: Hunter was shot after Vancouver detectives stopped his vehicle near Northeast 78th Street and Northeast 25th Avenue as part of a narcotics trafficking investigation. Police said Hunter, a known gang member, was armed and uncooperative. Two detectives fired their weapons, striking him in the torso. The shooting is under investigation.