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Oct. 26, 2021

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Investigators detail chaotic traffic stop before shooting in Hazel Dell

Attorney for victim’s family calls for officer’s arrest

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:

A chaotic series of events starting with a “suspicious activity” call and car’s “defective rear light” culminated in the shooting of a Black Vancouver man by a Clark County sheriff’s deputy, according to an initial account of the shooting released Wednesday.

The Vancouver Police Department — which is handling the release of information and leading the investigation into the shooting — said the SW Washington Independent Investigative Response Team has completed its interviews with the involved deputies and outlined the information gathered thus far.

Three deputies were involved in a traffic stop that started around 7:40 p.m. Feb. 4 near Northeast 68th Street and Northeast Second Avenue in Hazel Dell. One of the deputies shot Jenoah Donald, the driver.

That deputy, identified as Sean Boyle, a 21-year veteran of the sheriff’s office and K-9 handler at Central Precinct, fired at Donald twice, striking him once, according to investigators.

Donald was taken to a local hospital, where he remains on life support in the intensive care unit, a Tuesday update on a GoFundMe page for his family states. Doctors have told his mother, Sue Zawacky, that there is nothing more they can do to save his life, but she is hoping he’ll recover.

According to Columbian archives, Boyle previously fired his weapon during a September 2018 pursuit of a man in Hazel Dell who drove away after crashing into a parked vehicle in the Felida area. The suspect, Christopher Franklin Rollins, then 23, was not wounded. The Regional Major Crimes Team investigated the shooting, but whether prosecutors found the deadly use of force to be justified is unknown.

Suspicious activity call

Investigators said the Clark County Sheriff’s Office responded at 7:37 p.m. Feb. 4 to the 6500 block of Northwest Jordan Way for a report of suspicious activity. Two vehicles were reportedly circling the area.

The 911 caller “expressed frustration with the ‘drug house’ and ‘constant barrage of issues affecting the neighborhood,’” the news release states. There have been more than 40 calls for service or responses in that area since June 2020.

The investigators’ report did not say if the 911 caller had provided a description of either of the two vehicles reportedly circling the area.

Boyle and Deputies Greg Agar and Holly Troupe responded to the call. (Agar has served six years with the sheriff’s office and is assigned to swing shift at the West Precinct, and Troupe has been with the sheriff’s office for 1½ years and works the night shift out of the West Precinct.)

According to investigators, Boyle said he saw a bronze-colored Mercedes-Benz, with Oregon license plates and a modified exhaust, leaving the area toward 68th Street. He followed the car and noticed it had a defective rear light, so he activated his emergency lights and stopped the car, just north of the intersection of Second Avenue and 68th Street.

The driver identified himself with an ID card as Jenoah Donald, but he could not provide proof of insurance or registration, investigators said.

By that time, Troupe had arrived and stood by the passenger’s side of Donald’s car to cover Boyle as he returned to his vehicle. She told investigators she became concerned about some items inside Donald’s vehicle, including what she described as a “ball-handled” object with a 3- to 4-inch sharpened “stake” on the end near the center console, according to the investigation synopsis.

Troupe repeatedly told Donald to place his hands in a visible location, according to investigators, but he did not comply, the synopsis says. He reportedly moved his hands behind his back and pulled out a cellphone and metal pliers.

Boyle became aware that the situation was escalating so he returned to Donald’s car. Agar had also arrived by this time, the news release states.

Boyle opened the driver’s door and asked Donald to exit the car. He did not comply. Boyle and Troupe then tried to remove Donald from the car, but he resisted and struggled, according to investigators.

“Deputy Troupe attempted to gain ‘pain compliance,’ which had no effect,” investigators said.

Boyle punched Donald in the nose as they struggled, to no effect. Boyle said he felt Donald pull on his outer ballistic vest, and he was pulled into Donald’s car. Boyle ordered Donald to let him go, but he held on, the update says.

Troupe told investigators she was concerned Donald was going to grab the sharpened item in his vehicle and assault Boyle.

During the struggle, Donald reportedly turned on the vehicle’s engine. The deputies said they heard the engine revving and “wheels spinning.” Boyle continued to try to free himself from Donald but was unsuccessful, according to investigators.

“Deputy Boyle felt the vehicle begin to move forward, and fearing he was going to be killed, he drew his firearm (Deputy Boyle is left-handed) and gave Mr. Donald a verbal warning to stop or he would be shot,” investigators said.

Boyle fired two shots; one struck Donald. The deputy then pushed away from the vehicle, which traveled northwest until it hit a fence in a neighboring yard, according to the synopsis. All three deputies approached the vehicle, removed Donald and began rendering aid.

Investigators said a Clark County judge has signed a search warrant for Donald’s vehicle. They plan to start processing the car for evidence in the next few days.

Family’s attorneys react

Donald was shot less than a mile from where Clark County deputies fatally shot Kevin Peterson Jr., a 21-year-old Black man, about three months ago. Peterson’s shooting prompted demonstrations in Hazel Dell and downtown Vancouver. However, NAACP Vancouver said that Donald’s family does not want any public demonstrations at this time, and it instead encouraged residents to submit comments to the sheriff’s office and police department demanding transparency and urgency in the investigation.

Tacoma-based Herrmann Law Group, which is representing Peterson’s family, is also representing Donald’s family.

In a written statement Wednesday night, attorney Lara Herrmann said: “The officer should be arrested and held accountable. After a six-day silence, they’ve admitted Jenoah had no gun, no weapon and posed no serious threat to the three officers.”

Mark Lindquist, another attorney with the law firm, said the traffic stop was not escalated by Donald but rather by the deputies.

“Deadly force should be a last resort — legally and morally. There were three tactically trained officers on the scene in full gear. They have Tasers, pepper spray and other non-lethal weapons. There was no good reason to shoot Jenoah in the head,” Lindquist wrote.

In a phone interview, he added that the investigation states Donald never used the object described or reached for it, and it’s not clear what that object might be. He said deputies admitted Donald was cooperative until they tried to drag him out of the car, “and judging from their own press release, there was no probable cause to remove him from the car.”

“The second shooting of a Black man, especially after a questionable traffic stop, raises serious questions about the culture at the Clark County Sheriff’s Office,” Lindquist said.

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