Investigative documents paint a clearer picture of the Oct. 4 Vancouver police shooting that resulted in the death of Andrew A. Williams, a 41-year-old homeless man with a history of drug use and run-ins with law enforcement.
Williams was in an on-and-off relationship with a woman he stabbed with a screwdriver on the night he was shot.
Investigators previously reported he was covered in blood when officers approached him; the blood was likely his own, as the woman’s teenage son stabbed Williams with a pocket knife to protect his mother, according to documents obtained by The Columbian through a public records request.
The Southwest Washington Regional Independent Investigative Team finished looking into the shooting in about a month, releasing little information during that time. Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik said he planned to have an outside prosecutor review the investigation and make a legal determination on the two officers’ use of deadly force.
Golik said Thursday he has not yet handed over the review to another office but hopes to do so by next week.
Officers were dispatched at 11:15 p.m. to the 2600 block of T Street for a report of an assault with a weapon. Williams had forced his way into an apartment and stabbed his girlfriend. Several people inside the apartment were able to get him back outside, where he confronted officers, according to the Vancouver Police Department.
Williams reportedly refused police commands to drop his weapon. Two Vancouver police officers — later identified as Rotha Yong and Brandon Riedel — fired their pistols, striking him. He died the next day at a hospital.
‘Paranoia and depression’
Following the shooting, investigators dug into Williams’ past. Police records show several contacts with law enforcement last year.
In May, Vancouver police were dispatched to a disturbance with a knife at Water Works Park. Williams was allegedly running around the park, threatening people. He told responding officers he was protecting himself from six other transient people, none of whom were located. Several days later, Portland police were dispatched when Williams sat at a table in a bar and demanded his meal, despite not ordering anything. He allegedly threatened employees and showed them a pocket knife. The officers gave him a ride to a food line in Portland.
Williams’ mother told police her son had struggled with methamphetamine addiction for two decades and tried to die by suicide by overdosing on heroin or depressants, according to the records.
She said she saw her son about a week before the police shooting. He seemed OK but had his “usual paranoia and depression,” the records say. She said he often thought people with knives were following him, and he needed to protect himself.
The mother said Williams had been going to a mental health facility for treatment but would never stay for long, according to the records.
Inside the apartment
The woman who was attacked told investigators she met Williams on a bus in 2017, when she was homeless. The two developed a turbulent dating relationship and were not seeing each other on the night of the shooting, the investigative records say.
Williams became upset, she said, because he was pounding on the door, but she and her two teenage children refused to let him inside. Williams wanted his cigarettes, she said.
Police reports show Williams called 911 three days prior and made a false report about the woman. She wasn’t home, but her children called police several hours later to report that Williams was knocking on the door and trying to enter the apartment. Yong responded to both of the calls; she told investigators Williams seemed intoxicated.
The woman’s son said Williams was knocking on the windows and door of the apartment before breaking the door and forcing his way inside on Oct. 4. An argument ensued over the intrusion and property damage. The family demanded Williams leave. Williams yelled at them not to call 911, ignoring their pleas, according to the boy’s account.
Williams grabbed a screwdriver from a bag of personal belongings and stabbed the mother in the head. She remained conscious and, along with her daughter, struggled with Williams as they tried to push him outside, the records say.
During the struggle, the boy grabbed a pocket knife and stabbed Williams’ upper body multiple times. An investigator of the police shooting noted he first learned of the boy’s actions during an interview with him at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. The investigator wrote that Vancouver police did not pass along this information. But in a 911 recording, the boy can be heard telling a dispatcher he stabbed Williams with a knife to defend his mother.
After being stabbed, Williams agreed to leave. He stated, “They’re going to kill me,” the records say. He repeated the phrase several times before exiting the apartment. A short time later, gunshots rang out from the direction of T Street, according to the records.
The woman’s daughter suffered a severe laceration to her foot. The injury may have been caused by debris scattered on the apartment’s floor. Williams also stabbed the son on the top of the head with the screwdriver. All three family members received stitches.
The police shooting
Records indicate Vancouver police units swarmed the Parc Central apartment complex in the Rose Village neighborhood.
Yong was among the first to arrive. As she pulled into one of the complex’s entrances, her patrol vehicle’s lights shined on Williams. She remembered him and recalled there was a mother and two teenagers in the apartment he was likely coming from, the records say.
The officer jumped out of her car, unholstering her Taser. She ran after Williams, who was walking south on T Street, and demanded he stop, Yong told investigators. She fired her Taser, but Williams appeared to be unaffected and moved toward her, she said.
Officers gave commands to Williams to drop his weapon and lie on the ground. They all reported that Williams refused, and several officers reported him saying, “shoot me” and “kill me,” according to the records.
Yong drew her weapon and fired two successive shots at Williams, but he continued moving in her direction. The officer said she repositioned herself, moving to the street, and by the time she had eyes back on Williams, he was on the ground, the records say.
“He was still yelling and stuff. I don’t remember — I just remember like, ‘Get on your stomach. Andrew get on the ground.’ And it’s, it’s, it’s just it’s weird because it’s like a, like the record stopped. And then all of a sudden it started again,” said Yong, a patrol officer of 11 years.
The intensity of the moment likely affected her memory, she told investigators. She was unable to recall if she discharged her firearm a third time. Her pistol was later found to have one round in the chamber and two rounds in the magazine, giving a possibility of three rounds fired, the records say.
Riedel arrived as Yong was confronting Williams. After seeing Yong deploy her Taser to no effect, he ran toward her, drew his weapon and fired one shot at Williams. He fired his pistol around the same time as Yong, according to the records.
The Clark County Medical Examiner determined Williams was shot in the abdomen and hip. Doctors at the hospital told investigators Williams’ liver had been pierced, and he suffered internal bleeding.
Investigators at the scene traced the wires of Yong’s Taser to a strip of grass along T Street. It did not appear the probes had struck Williams, as they were both void of fabric or other materials, according to the records. Yong said she believed she was 20 feet away from Williams when she deployed the less-lethal weapon.