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Sept. 19, 2021

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Investigators: Suspect admitted to shooting Clark County Detective Brown

Guillermo Raya Leon, 26, appeared in court Thursday on aggravated murder, possession of a stolen firearm

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
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Investigators say Guillermo Raya Leon admitted to them that he shot Clark County sheriff’s Detective Jeremy Brown, 46, once with a revolver while Brown was seated in an unmarked police SUV at an east Vancouver apartment complex.

The new information comes in court records filed Wednesday for a series of search warrants related to the July 23 shooting, including details on Raya Leon’s Sunday arrest in his hometown of Salem, Ore.

Raya Leon, 26, appeared Thursday morning via video in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of aggravated first-degree murder and possession of a stolen firearm.

During Thursday’s hearing, Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik said he filed a motion for Raya Leon to be held without bail, prompting the defense to ask for a continuance. Defense attorney Therese Lavallee also filed a motion to waive speedy arraignment.

Judge Jennifer Snider said probable cause had been found for the charges and that the court should know Monday which judge will be assigned to the case. A hearing should be scheduled by Aug. 27, according to a memo for the set over request.

In the meantime, Snider ordered that Raya Leon be held without bail.

Lavallee also noted during the hearing she had not received information about Raya Leon’s extradition from Oregon, and she requested the related documents.

The first row of the courtroom gallery was filled with Brown’s family, who silently watched the proceedings. They were escorted from the courtroom afterward by the prosecution and members of the sheriff’s office.

Under surveillance

Court filings shed light on the events leading up to the fatal shooting. They revolve around efforts by detectives to follow Raya Leon; his brother, Abran Raya Leon, 28, and the brother’s wife, Misty Raya, 35, as part of an investigation into the theft of a cache of 32 firearms from a Hazel Dell storage unit in early June.

On the morning of the shooting, Vancouver and Clark County detectives saw at least one of the three leave a Castle Rock hotel in a Volvo station wagon. Investigators said they saw heavy suitcase-sized bags being loaded into the car. Officers tried to stop the Volvo, but it got away, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Clark County sheriff’s detectives in undercover vehicles found the Volvo near Interstate 205 and 134th Street. They followed it to the Target parking lot at Jantzen Beach, where Raya and the brothers were seen in the car, the affidavit states.

A Toyota Sequoia SUV, driven by Raya’s friend Lani Kraabell, then arrived, court records say.

“There, several heavy bags were seen being loaded into the Sequoia. The bags were long — ‘about the length of a rifle,’ per Detective Swenson, and appeared to be heavy,” the search warrant affidavit reads.

The three then got into the SUV and drove away. The undercover units followed the SUV back to Vancouver but got stuck in traffic on the Interstate 5 Bridge. They contacted detectives with the regional drug task force who were familiar with them and knew the SUV was associated with a unit at The Pointe Apartments in east Vancouver, according to the search warrant affidavit.

Brown, a 15-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, had served as a detective with the drug task force since 2017. He was sitting in an unmarked maroon-colored Jeep SUV providing surveillance from the apartment complex parking lot, court records say.

Undercover officers saw the three arrive at the complex in the Toyota SUV. They were seen taking the bags into an apartment, a search warrant affidavit states.

Investigators involved in the surveillance operation said they heard several possible gunshots in the area and saw the Toyota SUV, with the three inside, speeding away. They followed the SUV and radioed to Brown but did not get a response, court documents say.

Apartment residents called 911 after finding Brown had been shot in the chest while sitting in his vehicle. He was taken to a hospital, where he died, according to an affidavit.

Court records related to a warrant for Guillermo Raya Leon’s arrest describe him as being paranoid, believing that law enforcement was following him; he confronted Brown.

Guillermo Raya Leon reportedly told his brother and sister-in-law that Brown fired at him first and that he shot back twice and ducked so he wasn’t hit. Multiple witnesses said they heard one shot, a pause and then several more gunshots — about five total, according to an affidavit of probable cause. Investigators have not disclosed whether Brown had discharged his firearm.

Manhunt

The shooting, which occurred shortly before 7 p.m., prompted a large law enforcement response, vehicle pursuit and manhunt.

According to a probable cause affidavit in Abran Raya Leon’s case, he drove the Toyota SUV away from the apartments with his brother inside. Raya caught up to the brothers and jumped into the back of the SUV.

Police located the Toyota SUV crashed and abandoned near I-205 and Padden Parkway. Search warrant documents state that a stolen 9mm Glock handgun was found on the driver’s side running board.

Officers used K-9 Oso to track the three. The police dog found Abran Raya Leon and Raya hiding in a bush in the yard of an unoccupied house in the 8700 block of Northeast 76th Avenue, court records say.

Oso “made contact” with Abran Raya Leon, according to the Vancouver Police Department, and he was taken to a Portland hospital for treatment. The U.S. Marshals Service subsequently took him into custody on federal warrants.

More information

Jason Hattrick, center, CEO of Kindness 911 and organizer of the "Honor Mile" event to memorialize Detective Jeremy Brown, runs alongside other flag holders at Alki Middle School on Wednesday. Brown, a 15-year veteran of the sheriff's office, was shot and killed in the line of duty in east Vancouver Friday night.
Hundreds run or walk memorial mile for slain Clark County sheriff’s detective
Hundreds of people laced up their sneakers Wednesday night at the track at Alki Middle School in Salmon Creek to run, walk or jog an…

Search warrant documents show a silver Taurus revolver was found in a planter in the backyard. Investigators have said they believe it is the weapon Guillermo Raya Leon used to shoot Brown.

Taking flight, arrest

Guillermo Raya Leon stole a Toyota Prius from the unoccupied house on Northeast 76th Avenue that night and drove off, court records state, prompting a manhunt that spanned the weekend.

A bulletin was issued to area law enforcement agencies. On Saturday, an off-duty Portland police officer reported seeing the Prius around 8:30 the night before, driving south on I-205 near the I-5 split in Oregon. Investigators said they believed Raya Leon was headed to Salem, a search warrant affidavit states.

Detectives with the U.S. Marshals Service received information Sunday that he was at an apartment complex in the 3800 block of Sunnyview Road in Northeast Salem. Officers stopped the vehicle as it tried to leave the complex, and he was arrested, the affidavit says.

In his interview with investigators, Guillermo Raya Leon also admitted to stealing the Prius and fleeing from law enforcement, and he said investigators would likely find a stolen firearm in the Prius. A search of the car yielded a Glock 19 in the front passenger’s seat, where Raya Leon had been seated, a Glock magazine and 9 mm ammunition.

Other charges

Investigators said both Raya and Abran Raya Leon acknowledged they were being investigated for criminal violations by multiple law enforcement agencies, court records say, and that Guillermo Raya Leon expressed concerns they were being followed. Both said they saw him with a large silver revolver, and he was still armed when they fled, according to an affidavit.

Federal court records show Abran Raya Leon faces a pending indictment for charges of possessing counterfeit postal service arrow keys and stolen mail. He appeared Monday in federal court in Portland. The Columbia County, Ore., Jail roster shows he’s there on a U.S. Marshals hold.

Additionally, an arrest warrant was issued Tuesday for Abran Raya Leon, accusing him of first-degree rendering criminal assistance for allegedly acting as the getaway driver following the shooting. He is awaiting extradition to Clark County.

A warrant for Raya’s arrest was issued two days before the shooting in connection with the theft of firearms, and Raya allegedly told a friend the three were being sought for a burglary, according to court records.

On Wednesday, the prosecution filed amended charges against Raya: 32 counts of theft of a firearm, three counts of second-degree burglary, two counts of second-degree identity theft, and one count each of first-degree theft and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. Court records list 13 pistols; 17 rifles, including an AK-47 and AR-15s; and two shotguns as being stolen, as well as tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Reached by phone Thursday, Golik declined to say whether Raya will be further charged.

Investigators said eight of the stolen firearms were recovered before the shooting in a unit rented to Raya under a false name, according to search warrant documents.

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