One of three Clark County deputies who fired on Kevin Peterson Jr. told investigators he’s “keenly aware of today’s climate” on policing and had no intention of pulling the trigger until Peterson pointed his gun at him.
Sheriff’s Detective Jeremy Brown shot eight of the 34 rounds fired at Peterson, a 21-year-old Black man, according to an interview Brown gave to a Longview police detective on Nov. 5.
Brown’s interview with investigators, along with interviews with the other involved officers, were included in a large records release by the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office last week. Additional records will be released Friday.
The three deputies shot Peterson after a confidential informant had arranged to buy 50 Xanax pills from him outside a Quality Inn in Hazel Dell on the evening of Oct. 29, according to investigators.
The fatal shooting occurred shortly before 6 p.m. in the parking lot of a shuttered U.S. Bank branch, 6829 N.E. Highway 99, adjacent to the motel.
Investigators concluded that Peterson had committed conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance and attempted assault on law enforcement when he pointed a loaded Glock 23 .40-caliber pistol at deputies. However, they also concluded that he did not fire the weapon, contradicting what officers initially said.
Peterson was struck four times: twice in the chest, once in the left arm and once in the left shoulder, preliminary autopsy results say. Investigative reports have not clarified whether Peterson was shot from behind or the front.
Video surveillance from a nearby business shows Peterson running away from sheriff’s Detective Robert Anderson when he falls to the ground. Anderson told investigators he decided to shoot Peterson as he ran because he believed Peterson would fire on officers setting up containment in the area. Anderson specifically cited concerns for Brown.
“So at that point, I kind of just drew a line in the sand, and I said, ‘I’ve given suspect enough commands. If he takes another step, I’m going to shoot him,'” Anderson told investigators. “He continued to run. I started shooting. I recall hearing other shots going off.”
Brown said he heard Anderson and sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Feller fire at Peterson, but he didn’t feel there was a reason to shoot until Peterson “blatantly, quickly” pointed his gun at him.
“I’m hearing shots, but I’m not seeing why I should be shooting at this point. So I don’t shoot,” Brown told Longview police Detective Ralph Webb. “I think I hear shots to the north. And I’m still not seeing why I should be shooting. I should say, I don’t think I ever looked at Anderson or Feller.”
Before shots were fired, Brown said, he didn’t see Peterson’s weapon — despite hearing Anderson yelling commands to “drop the gun” — because he was fixated on a cellphone in Peterson’s left hand; it appeared he was live-streaming the interaction.
“And I just started thinking, ‘Why is he doing that? That is incredibly … weird,'” Brown told investigators.
Then, Brown started to hear gunshots from the south, from Anderson’s location.
“I’m not seeing the gun. … I mean, I’m keenly aware of today’s climate and what’s going on and all this stuff. I’ve been doing this job for, you know, 13, maybe a little bit over 13 years. And this whole time, I’ve decided I will not pull the trigger unless I absolutely have to, I mean, absolutely have to,” Brown told Webb in his interview.
Brown said he heard shots coming from the north and south, but Peterson didn’t look to be affected.
“I’m thinking, ‘Well, whoever is shooting is missing.’ I do remember seeing some rounds impact the dirt berm behind the suspect,” he said.
But then Peterson reportedly pointed his gun at Brown.
“And the first thing that went through my brain was, “Oh, (expletive). It’s too late. I’m way behind the curve.’ … I’m law enforcement. We’re trained action beats reaction. And I’m thinking I’m about to take rounds. My focus goes right to my front sight tip — suspect’s blurry behind it, and I fired. I think I fired five or six times,” Brown said in his interview. He later learned he fired eight times.
He said he heard shots as he fired and wondered if he had been hit.
“I don’t feel any pain, but my adrenaline could be masking (it),” Brown recalled.
Feller, too, told investigators he believed Peterson had fired at him. He said Peterson pointed the barrel of his gun right at him, and then he heard gunshots from his left ear — when both Brown and Anderson were to his right.
“I didn’t see any muzzle flash from the barrel, but at that point, I had heard gunshots from my left and I thought he was firing at me. I started returning fire,” Feller told investigators.
After firing, Brown said he didn’t see Peterson’s gun anymore. Peterson was on his back, but Brown couldn’t tell if the suspect had been hit.
Peterson stopped moving, and an arrest team moved in.
Brown said Feller was to his left looking at him with a “very shocked look on his face.” Feller kept asking Brown if he was OK.
“So now I’m thinking again, ‘Did I take rounds?'” Brown recalled.
He started to assess himself for injuries and found none.
“Until he pointed the gun at me, I wasn’t comfortable pulling the trigger. And I only did what I felt was necessary to stop him from shooting or killing me,” Brown said. “And once I didn’t feel that it was an immediate threat, I didn’t fire anymore.”
The Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is reviewing the law enforcement investigation and will determine if the deputies’ use of deadly force was lawful and justified. The findings will be presented in a report to Clark County.
Attorneys for Peterson’s family have said they have hired an independent investigator, had an independent autopsy performed and requested all the video footage from the scene.