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News / Clark County News

Guillermo Raya Leon sentenced to life in prison in fatal shooting of Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: October 5, 2023, 9:56am
10 Photos
Friends, family and colleagues of Clark County sheriff's Sgt. Jeremy Brown look on as defendant Guillermo Raya Leon leaves the courtroom at the Clark County Courthouse on Thursday morning, Oct. 5, 2023, after being sentenced to life in prison following the 2021 fatal shooting of Brown.
Friends, family and colleagues of Clark County sheriff's Sgt. Jeremy Brown look on as defendant Guillermo Raya Leon leaves the courtroom at the Clark County Courthouse on Thursday morning, Oct. 5, 2023, after being sentenced to life in prison following the 2021 fatal shooting of Brown. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Despite a judge Thursday sentencing the man who fatally shot Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown to life in prison and his co-conspirator to 25 years, Brown’s loved ones told the judge through tears no amount of time would bring him back.

The detective’s family and co-workers shared their emotional victim impact statements before the sentences were handed down.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Derek Vanderwood recognized the tragedy of their loss won’t go away, but he said he hopes Brown’s influence can remain.

“I think those statements that I’ve heard today provide all of us an opportunity to remember his life, the commitment, the example that he provided, and perhaps in a way that allows us to reflect how we’re doing in our own lives and the way that we can improve and learn from that commitment and dedication,” the judge said.

A jury found Guillermo Raya Leon, 28, guilty last week of aggravated first-degree murder, first-degree trafficking in stolen property, first-degree burglary, theft of a motor vehicle and two counts of possession of a stolen firearm.

Aggravated first-degree murder carries a mandatory minimum of life in prison without the possibility of early release.

Raya Leon, of Salem, Ore., shot Brown on July 23, 2021, as the detective conducted surveillance in his unmarked Jeep SUV at an east Vancouver apartment complex. Law enforcement officers from several agencies were watching Raya Leon, his brother and his brother’s wife as part of an investigation into stolen firearms. He claimed self-defense in the shooting.

Following his hearing, his sister-in-law and the final co-defendant in Brown’s shooting, Misty Raya, was sentenced. She pleaded guilty three days after the verdict in Guillermo Raya Leon’s case to second-degree murder, two counts of second-degree burglary and one count each of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and theft of a firearm.

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A jury convicted Raya Leon’s brother, Abran Raya Leon, 30, last month of second-degree murder, possession of a stolen firearm and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. He was the getaway driver in the shooting, and a judge sentenced him to 27 years in prison.

When Misty Raya left the courtroom Thursday, Brown’s widow, Jill Brown, embraced Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik, Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Anna Klein and Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Smith. The trio of prosecutors handled all three cases.

‘Someone who lived for his job’

Jill Brown was largely quiet and contemplative while Jeremy Brown’s children read statements to the court. She nodded in agreement when sheriff’s Sgt. Bill Sofianos, who was her husband’s supervisor, said there will never be another like him while describing the detective’s compassion.

When one of Jeremy Brown’s sons addressed Guillermo Raya Leon by name, he looked at him briefly before staring straight ahead again.

“Clark County has suffered the loss of a dedicated team member — someone who lived for his job and those he served,” Gage Brown told the judge. “His job that day included keeping you and your families safe from people like the person who took his life.”

Another of Jeremy Brown’s sons described how he was building a relationship with his father when he was killed.

“While in the process of making up for lost time, while in the process of making memories I never had the privilege of making as a child, you locked me into four years. Four years with one of the most important relationships a man can have in his lifetime — a father and son,” Blake Rinkin said.

One of Jeremy Brown’s daughters spoke of her childhood memories of feeding ducks at the park and eating junk food with her father. Now, she’s stuck missing him, she said, and wishing they could have made more memories together.

“This was a man who woke up on the morning of July 23, 2021, and unknowingly drank his last cup of coffee, kissed his wife for the very last time, texted his kids ‘Happy Friday’ for the very last time and never made it back,” Brooke Brown said. “The impact that this horrendous, unnecessary crime has had on myself, my family and many, many others is, quite frankly, not something that could even be explained by mere words here today.”

‘Tragic loss of life’

Guillermo Raya Leon and Misty Raya declined to speak at their hearings. The defense teams for each said their clients were remorseful and recognized the grief of Jeremy Brown’s loved ones.

“There’s not really anything we can say to lessen that pain that they feel,” said Sean Downs, Misty Raya’s defense attorney. “But just know that my client is sorry for her role in what occurred here.”

Guillermo Raya Leon’s defense attorney, Therese Lavallee, said her client had been homeless and struggling with drug addiction prior to the shooting. She said he made a series of poor choices that led to Jeremy Brown’s death, and she reaffirmed his self-defense claim.

“His decision to go to that location where Jeremy Brown was seated, armed with a firearm, was his worst decision of his life,” Lavallee said. “He does maintain, your honor, that he didn’t act with premeditated intent to take Jeremy Brown’s life. It was something that happened in a matter of seconds, and his decision to fire, in his mind, was self-preservation.”

Vanderwood told those who filled the courtroom gallery that based on their statements, he thinks the sheriff’s deputy would’ve been proud of them.

“I also don’t pretend to know and understand what it feels like to be in those circumstances, not only from the tragic loss of life to begin with, but through the evolution of this process of over two years,” Vanderwood said. “It is clear, from what I’ve heard today, that Sgt. Brown’s life had a significant impact and will continue to have a significant impact on so many people.”

After the sentencings, Jill Brown said in a statement to The Columbian her family is ready to move forward without the painful court hearings looming over them. She thanked the prosecutors, investigators and everyone involved in the cases.

“Today does not bring closure. Today does not bring Jeremy back,” she said. “But the fact that our legal system did not fail Jeremy does bring us some peace.”