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News / Clark County News

Man fatally shot by police at Vancouver shopping center identified

Names of Vancouver police officers, Clark County deputy have not been released

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: June 5, 2023, 7:30pm

The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office identified a 43-year-old Vancouver man as the person fatally shot by police May 30 in a central Vancouver shopping center parking lot.

Joshua James Wilson’s cause of death was listed as multiple gunshot wounds, the medical examiner’s office said. His death was ruled a homicide, meaning it resulted from another person’s deliberate action. The ruling does not make any judgments about criminal culpability.

The Vancouver Police Department previously said Wilson was wanted for multiple armed robberies and fired at pursuing officers while running through the parking lot of the Heights Shopping Center, in the 6700 block of East Mill Plain Boulevard.

However, in Monday’s update, the Lower Columbia Major Crimes Team, which is handling the investigation, said videos captured Wilson pointing a pistol at a uniformed officer; the update does not say whether he fired his weapon.

Investigators can’t confirm whether Wilson fired because they are still reviewing video, according to Troy Brightbill, the team’s commander and chief criminal deputy for the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office.

Three Vancouver police officers and a Clark County sheriff’s deputy fired their weapons. Investigators have not yet released their names. All four were placed on critical incident leave, according to a Vancouver police statement last week.

The Lower Columbia Major Crimes Team, led by the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office, is continuing to investigate, with help from the Washington State Patrol Crime Scene Response Team and Criminal Investigation Division. In compliance with state law, Vancouver Police Department and Clark County Sheriff’s Office personnel are not involved in the investigation.

Investigators said Monday they have completed processing evidence from the scene and interviewed several witnesses, as well as obtained video, including store surveillance and officers’ body-worn cameras.

The Lower Columbia Major Crimes Team said it will not release any video of the shooting to the public until the involved officers have been interviewed. Brightbill said the officer interviews should be completed by week’s end.

Here is what investigators say happened: At about 5:30 p.m., the Vancouver Police Neighborhood Response Team, with help from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office Tactical Detectives Unit, was attempting to take Wilson into custody as he walked out of the Safeway supermarket.

Wilson had arrest warrants, investigators say, and was identified as a suspect in a May 20 burglary at Allen’s Crosley Lanes, 2400 E. Evergreen Blvd., and May 21 and 29 armed robberies at convenience stores at 6510 E. Mill Plain Blvd., and 1901 Kauffman Ave., respectively.

“Officer safety information had previously been shared with law enforcement agencies in the region, noting that Wilson was armed and had reportedly made statements that he would shoot police rather than be taken into custody,” Monday’s update reads.

After an officer spotted Wilson going into the supermarket,  more police responded and formed an arrest team in the parking lot near Wilson’s vehicle. When Wilson emerged with his groceries, the officers identified themselves and ordered him to stop. But he ran west through the parking lot, investigators said.

“Videos show Wilson reaching behind his back, and officers then call out that Wilson had a gun. Wilson is seen on video pointing a pistol directly at a uniformed police officer and is then engaged with gunfire from three officers and one deputy,” the update reads.

Officers called for paramedics and rendered first aid, but Wilson was pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators said he had a pistol in his possession.

In a video recorded by a bystander and posted to social media, officers, with their guns drawn, can be seen running through the parking lot. Someone is then heard shouting, “He has a gun!” A few seconds later, what appears to be another officer is seen firing a weapon, and multiple gunshots can be heard.

Wilson appeared to have died near an alley in the shopping center, between Craft Cannabis and Northwest Health and Safety.

No officers or members of the public were injured.

Once the Lower Columbia Major Crimes Team investigation is complete, the case will be forwarded to the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for review. At that point, Prosecutor Tony Golik said his office will review the report for any conflict with his office and determine who will complete the formal review.