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Clark County Medical Examiner: Kevin Peterson Jr. died of multiple gunshot wounds

NAACP Vancouver decries violence, vandalism in wake of police shooting

By , Columbian Sports Editor, and
, Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
3 Photos
Black Lives Matter protesters face off against Blue Lives Matter and Patriot Prayer supporters in downtown Vancouver near Esther Short Park on Saturday night, Oct. 31, 2020.
Black Lives Matter protesters face off against Blue Lives Matter and Patriot Prayer supporters in downtown Vancouver near Esther Short Park on Saturday night, Oct. 31, 2020. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Kevin E. Peterson Jr., a 21-year-old Black man from Camas who was fatally shot by Clark County sheriff’s deputies Thursday evening in Hazel Dell, died of multiple gunshot wounds, the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office announced Monday.

The medical examiner’s office did not offer additional information about Peterson’s wounds. His manner of death was ruled a homicide, meaning it resulted from another person’s deliberate action. The ruling does not make any judgments about criminal culpability.

The shooting occurred shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday in the parking lot at a US Bank branch, 6829 N.E. Highway 99. The branch has been closed for months because of the pandemic and is slated for permanent closure.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins said a narcotics investigation led to deputies chasing Peterson on foot.

Atkins said Peterson had reportedly fired at the deputies, but investigators released additional information Friday night that only said Peterson had displayed a weapon. It did not say he had fired it.

Three deputies reportedly fired their weapons at Peterson; all deputies involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard protocol for police shootings. They have not yet been identified.

A vigil, attended by hundreds of people, was held for Peterson on Friday night at the bank branch on Highway 99. But unrest followed, roiling Hazel Dell and downtown Vancouver on Friday night as hundreds of protesters and counterprotesters marched in the streets and scuffled in the wake of the police shooting of Peterson.

Protesters mourning the death Peterson marched from the vigil to downtown Vancouver.

Once there, the group of about 300 faced off with law enforcement and counterprotesters, lit dumpster fires, damaged windows and tagged several buildings with graffiti.

Shots were fired into the air by one person, according to police, but no one was injured.

The march eventually ended up at Esther Short Park, where Vancouver police ordered the crowd to disperse at 1 a.m. Six people were arrested for failing to do so, including two from Eugene, Ore., one from Portland, one from Vancouver, one from Camas and one with an unknown hometown.

In a statement released Sunday, NAACP Vancouver condemned the property damage and pledged to pursue justice through peaceful activities.

“We want to make it absolutely clear that the NAACP Vancouver was not involved in nor consulted in organizing the protest,” the statement said. “We also want to make it abundantly clear to the participants that your non-peaceful behavior is totally antithetical to our values as an organization and as Black citizens of Vancouver.”

Also Sunday, about 25 people gathered at Vancouver Waterfront Park for a silent vigil remembering Peterson. Participants bowed their heads and held flowers while standing on the Grant Street Pier over the Columbia River.

It was in that spirit that NAACP Vancouver hopes to pursue change.

“To the people involved in organizing the (Friday) protest, we appreciate those of you who peacefully demonstrated,” the NAACP said. “To those who committed damage, please do not assume that anarchy in any way, historically or now, defines or serves the needs or desires of the NAACP or Black citizens in Vancouver.”

Saturday saw a second night of unrest in downtown Vancouver. It followed dueling rallies at Esther Short Park between those mourning Peterson and a pro-police, pro-President Donald Trump rally organized by David Gellatly, a local Republican activist. The groups traded chants and insults, but no violence occurred at the park.

Just after 10 p.m. Black Lives Matter supporters began marching on streets in downtown Vancouver. Counterprotesters, led by right-wing group Patriot Prayer, marched in tow.

The marchers eventually blocked traffic on East Mill Plain Boulevard, then tried to enter Interstate 5. But Vancouver police officers blocked each onramp from Mill Plain, preventing access to the freeway.

The marchers dispersed after midnight after Vancouver police officers threatened to make arrests. Videos on social media showed broken windows at some downtown businesses and at Lewis and Clark Plaza, an apartment complex.

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