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News / Clark County News

Jury hears interviews with alleged getaway driver in Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown’s slaying

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Local News Editor
Published: August 16, 2023, 7:09pm

Jurors on Wednesday heard hours of audio of detectives’ interviews with the alleged getaway driver in the July 2021 slaying of Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown. The interviews, held in the days after the shooting, were the last pieces of evidence presented before prosecutors rested their case.

The defense also rested its case shortly after 4 p.m., without calling any witnesses.

Jury instructions and closing arguments in Abran Raya Leon’s felony murder trial are scheduled for Thursday. The case will then go to the jury.

Although he didn’t pull the trigger, Abran Raya Leon, 30, is accused in Brown’s death as part of an alleged conspiracy to traffick stolen firearms. He is charged with second-degree murder, possession of a stolen firearm and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm in Clark County Superior Court.

Prosecutors allege his brother, Guillermo Raya Leon, 28, fatally shot Brown and that Abran Raya Leon’s wife, Misty Raya, 37, initiated the alleged trafficking scheme.

Before Vancouver police Sgt. Jason Mills took the stand to testify about his investigation, the defense unsuccessfully moved to exclude portions of Abran Raya Leon’s police interview, arguing it was prejudicial.

In that July 27, 2021, interview from the Columbia County Jail in Oregon, Mills asked Abran Raya Leon if he thought he had “some sliver of responsibility in the murder of that police officer?” To which Abran Raya Leon replied, “Yeah.”

“I’m sorry. I made a mistake,” he’s heard saying, adding he should have done it differently.

Earlier in the interview, Abran Raya Leon could be heard crying as he acknowledged that he doesn’t know if he’ll get to see his kids again.

Mills asked, “How do you think the officer’s family is feeling?” Abran Raya Leon replied, “Bad.”

Brown’s wife, Jill Brown, who was seated in the front row of the gallery, looked up toward the ceiling and away from the defendant’s table as tears welled in her eyes.

Abran Raya Leon wrote on a legal note pad as he listened to the audio.

Police interviews

The interviews played back to back revealed discrepancies in what Abran Raya Leon initially told police happened July 23, 2021.

He said the trio had been at a motel earlier in the day, when his brother became paranoid they were being followed by undercover officers. They left the motel and subsequently fled from a pursuing police car north of Vancouver. They eventually stopped at a Target in Portland, after their vehicle broke down.

Misty Raya called a friend, Lani Kraabell, to pick them up. She arrived in a Toyota SUV and took them back to her Vancouver apartment, Abran Raya Leon is heard saying.

At the apartment, Guillermo Raya Leon stepped outside to smoke a cigarette when he spotted someone sitting inside a red SUV, his brother is heard saying. Abran Raya Leon said his brother started “trippin” that they were being followed by police. He made fun of his brother, he said, for being paranoid.

Kraabell stepped outside to smoke a cigarette and look, Abran Raya Leon is heard saying, and also told Guillermo Raya Leon he was “trippin.”

Abran Raya Leon told detectives he then went to use the bathroom. When he came out, his brother had entered the apartment, saying they had to go now because someone was shooting at him.

During that interview, Abran Raya Leon said he didn’t know what had happened until the trio fled in the Toyota SUV. He said his brother then told him he had approached the red SUV and asked the man inside, “Why the (expletive) are you following me?”

Guillermo Raya Leon reportedly said the man didn’t answer and instead fired four shots at him, Abran Raya Leon told detectives. Guillermo Raya Leon returned fire twice but missed when the man ducked, his brother is heard saying, and the man fired six more shots at him. (The prosecution has argued that Guillermo Raya Leon fired first and that Jeremy Brown fired seven shots.)

However, in his second interview, Abran Raya Leon changed his story and said his brother had told him what happened before they sped away from the apartment complex.

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He initially denied hearing gunshots while in the bathroom but later said he heard two pops, though he didn’t believe they were gunfire at the time.

Abran Raya Leon initially told detectives he drove the trio away from the apartment after the shooting. But when he was challenged on that, he said his brother was driving. In his second police interview, however, Abran Raya Leon admitted to being the driver.

He also initially denied having a gun. But he later told detectives he was in possession of a stolen Glock pistol and that his DNA would likely be on the pistol and a stolen revolver prosecutors say his brother used to shoot Brown.

In his second police interview, Abran Raya Leon is also heard admitting to having more knowledge about the cache of allegedly stolen guns than he initially let on. He said his wife and another man stole them from a storage facility. The plan was to sell them, he said.