Investigative materials released Wednesday lend detail into how a traffic stop in Hazel Dell led to a Black motorist’s death at the hands of a Clark County sheriff’s deputy.
All three involved deputies told investigators they didn’t know Jenoah Donald prior to the Feb. 4 incident. Deputy Sean Boyle — who initiated the stop and ultimately fired the shots that killed Donald — said he was unsure if the 30-year-old man had committed any crime and initially did not intend to arrest him.
Donald did not possess a firearm, according to investigative reports, and he did not appear to brandish any weapons during the encounter.
A sharp object described by Deputy Holly Troupe, which apparently prompted the escalation, turned out to be a screwdriver lying near the car’s center console. None of the deputies indicated to investigators that Donald attempted to use the tool as a weapon, though Troupe said she feared in the moment that Donald could use it to stab Boyle, according to her interview with detectives.
The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office received the reports Monday from the Southwest Washington Independent Investigative Response Team, led by the Vancouver Police Department. Office staff spent much of Wednesday looking through the materials and redacting information that is not subject to public disclosure.
Among the disclosed materials is a 1,379-page digital document containing investigators’ reports and transcripts of the involved officers’ interviews, as well as photos of the scene and evidence, drone video footage, and audio interviews.
The investigation will be sent to another county prosecutor’s office to determine whether Boyle was legally justified in using deadly force against Donald. Prosecutor Tony Golik said Wednesday he’s working with the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys to determine which office will carry out the review. He did not yet have a timeline for that decision.
In a news release Wednesday, Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins said he attended a briefing on the investigation this week, and he again offered his condolences to Donald’s loved ones.
“I recognize that there are additional levels of review to now take place, which will take some time, perhaps many months,” he said. “I appreciate the hard work of the SWIIR, and especially the citizen volunteers who play an important role in that process. I will now await the outcome of the next level review.”
In the meantime, Boyle will return to duty next week, Atkins said.
Although the investigation has been completed, lab results tied to the case are still pending, according to the Vancouver Police Department. Investigators said last week they are awaiting information from the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab about items submitted for processing, including the protective vest worn by Boyle the night of the shooting.
Boyle fired twice at Donald, of Battle Ground, after a struggle broke out. It started when Boyle stopped a Mercedes-Benz sedan over an “extremely loud” exhaust and a malfunctioning right brake light, according to the deputy’s interview with investigators.
Donald, Boyle and Troupe subsequently struggled inside the Mercedes; Boyle fired when Donald ignored commands to let him go, and the car lurched forward with Boyle partially inside, investigative reports state.
Donald was struck once in the head and died at a hospital Feb. 12 after being removed from life support, according to his family’s attorney.
He was shot less than a mile away from the site of the Oct. 29 shooting of Kevin Peterson Jr., a 21-year-old Black man from Camas. Clark County deputies fatally shot Peterson as he ran from an undercover Xanax pill sting.
Investigators said deputies responded around 7:40 p.m. to the area of Northwest Jordan Way because a neighbor called to complain about a “drug house” and reported three suspicious vehicles circling the area, revving their engines. Deputies had visited the house a number of times over the years and more frequently in the last year, according to investigative reports.
Boyle said he was the first deputy to arrive in the area. He saw a bronze-colored Mercedes driving on Northwest 68th Street and stopped it for the defective brake light. He did not see the Mercedes at the alleged drug house.
The driver, later identified as Donald, immediately pulled over and told Boyle his license was suspended — but he provided identification and his current address — although he said he didn’t have auto insurance, and he didn’t have the car’s registration, according to Boyle’s interview with investigators.
As Boyle was checking Donald’s license plate and vehicle identification number, Troupe arrived, stood on the passenger’s side of the Mercedes and began looking inside, according to the deputies’ interviews. Both deputies said there was a lot of garbage and miscellaneous tools inside the car.
Troupe said she was watching Donald’s hands when she noticed a sharp metal object, later determined to be the screwdriver, next to him. She ordered him to show his hands, which were in his lap. Troupe said Donald curled his hands in. He then leaned forward and produced a cellphone and what appeared to be pliers from behind his back. He set the tool down next to the screwdriver and held onto the phone, she told investigators.
“I said, ‘Really? I just told you to show me your hands. Keep your hands out,’ ” Troupe recalled in her interview. She said she told Donald he needed to “chill out,” and in response, he told her to “chill out.”
At this point, Boyle said he heard Troupe’s commands and her “intent tone,” according to his interview with investigators. He said he wanted to defuse the situation, so he returned to Donald’s car and asked him to step out. Donald refused, and Boyle reached in and attempted to pull him out. Troupe came around to assist.
Deputy Greg Agar had also arrived at the scene by this time, records state.
Boyle said he told Donald he would send his K-9 to bite him if he did not stop resisting, but they continued to struggle. Troupe attempted to gain “pain compliance” by using finger pressure under Donald’s jaw, which had no effect, she told investigators. Boyle then punched Donald once in the nose, which appeared to break it, according to investigative reports.
Donald kicked at Boyle, pushing him away, the deputy said. Troupe told investigators she was concerned Donald was going use his free hand to grab the screwdriver and stab Boyle.
Donald reportedly started his car during the struggle. The deputies said they heard the engine revving and wheels spinning. Both said they feared they would be dragged behind or run over. Troupe was able to push away, but Boyle said Donald had hold of his ballistic vest; he continued to try to free himself but was unsuccessful.
“I know from the academy that they tell you traffic stops and DVs (domestic violence) are the most dangerous thing we’ll do, and I thought, ‘This is, this is why they tell us that,’ ” Troupe told investigators.
Boyle said he pleaded with Donald to stop and warned him that if he didn’t, he would shoot. Then the car lurched forward and began moving, Boyle told investigators.
“I was convinced, ‘This is how you’re gonna die.’ And it seems like it was a long time, but it was probably a split second my mind goes, ‘Not right now,’ ” Boyle said.
He drew his firearm and fired twice in quick succession. He then pushed away, and the car continued to roll forward across two lawns and crashed into a residence’s fence.
According to the investigative materials, Agar reported shots had been fired and began rendering aid to Donald until medics arrived and took him to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.