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News / Clark County News

Judge denies second motion for mistrial in slaying of sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown

Defense seeks time for additonal testing

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: September 13, 2023, 6:43pm

A judge Wednesday morning denied a second defense motion for a mistrial in the aggravated murder trial of the Salem, Ore., man accused of fatally shooting Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown.

Defense attorneys for Guillermo Raya Leon, 28, said they learned in a witness interview Tuesday night there were additional ballistics tests that were not completed in the case. The defense argued testing of a substance on one of the bullets found at the scene could determine whether it was associated with the July 2021 shooting or if it had already been in the parking lot of the east Vancouver apartment complex.

The defense requested a mistrial to allow for the testing to be completed.

“This is the most serious case that Clark County has had, as far as I can remember, and I’ve been practicing law here for 37 years,” defense attorney Therese Lavallee said.

Raya Leon is also charged in Clark County Superior Court with first-degree trafficking in stolen property, first-degree burglary, theft of a motor vehicle and two counts of possession of a stolen firearm.

He is accused of shooting Brown as the detective conducted surveillance in an unmarked Jeep SUV. 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.

During opening statements Friday, the state and defense proposed different theories for the number of shots Brown fired out of his drivers’ side window.

Raya Leon is claiming self-defense, and Lavallee implied during her opening statement that Brown fired the first shot. She argued Brown fired twice through the drivers’ side window. Prosecutors said Brown fired that direction once.

Prosecutor Tony Golik noted the case has been pending for more than two years. He said the defense team has had access to the forensic scientists’ reports that detailed what tests were performed, and the defense conducted lengthy interviews.

Golik said the forensic scientists were able to render opinions about which bullets were involved in the shooting based on their positioning at the crime scene. He also noted a forensic scientist testified during the trial of Raya Leon’s brother, the getaway driver, that he thought there should have been further testing of the bullets. Raya Leon’s defense attorneys were present at that trial, Golik argued.

Judge Derek Vanderwood said he did not believe the state was hiding evidence. He also did not agree there was a basis for a mistrial, just because a forensic scientist felt more testing could have been done.

The judge noted both parties could have their experts share their opinions on the evidence and then cross-examine each others’ experts.

Trial continued Wednesday with most witnesses recounting the police chase and manhunt following the shooting, including the arrest of Raya Leon’s brother and sister-in-law. More state’s witnesses are scheduled to testify Thursday.