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News / Clark County News

Jurors hear Raya Leon police interview before state rests case in trial of man accused of killing deputy

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: September 20, 2023, 6:48pm
2 Photos
Defendant Guillermo Raya Leon, right, is pictured with his defense team Sept. 8 at the Clark County Courthouse before opening statements in his aggravated murder trial. Prosecutors rested their case against him Wednesday afternoon.
Defendant Guillermo Raya Leon, right, is pictured with his defense team Sept. 8 at the Clark County Courthouse before opening statements in his aggravated murder trial. Prosecutors rested their case against him Wednesday afternoon. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday against the Salem, Ore., man accused of fatally shooting Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown after playing the accused’s recorded police interview for the jury.

Guillermo Raya Leon, 28, is charged in Clark County Superior Court with 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.

Prosecutors say Raya Leon 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.

Raya Leon is claiming self-defense in the shooting.

After the state rested, the defense moved to dismiss the aggravated murder and burglary charges. Defense attorneys claimed the state had not proved those charges. The judge denied the motion and found there was enough evidence to send those charges to the jury.

During his police interview, Raya Leon described exiting the apartment and taking a route through the parking lot so Brown wouldn’t see him approaching. He said he wanted to catch the man in the Jeep off guard to see if he was spying on them.

He waffled throughout the interview about whether he knew the man in the Jeep was a law enforcement officer. He identified vehicles he’d thought were following the trio earlier in the day that were undercover police vehicles.

When the group got to the apartment complex, Raya Leon saw the man in the Jeep through the back door of the apartment, he said. He told his brother and sister-in-law the man was keeping an eye on them. But, they didn’t believe him, he said, and told him to relax.

Raya Leon said he approached the Jeep’s driver’s side window and asked Brown if he was looking for something or waiting for someone. He said he saw Brown had a heavy-duty laptop on his lap.

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Brown told him to back up, he said, and reached for his gun.

Raya Leon told detectives multiple times during the interview he didn’t know who shot first, but he said Brown pointed his gun at him. He said he heard six or seven more shots as he was running away.

Raya Leon began crying during portions of the interview. In the courtroom, he stared straight ahead while the video played.

He said he didn’t go outside with the intention of shooting the detective, but instead to confirm if he was an officer.

Detectives questioned why Raya Leon went outside with a gun to confront a man he thought was an officer. They also asked him why he didn’t just leave when Brown told him to back up.

He said he carried the gun for safety, and he only pulled it from his sweatshirt pocket when he saw Brown draw his gun. At one point, he said he didn’t mean to hurt anyone and that he didn’t know if his shot hit Brown or not.

He also described in the interview his brother driving them away from the complex following the shooting. He said he changed his clothes, broke into a house, stole the resident’s car and drove to Salem, where he was arrested two days later.

When the interview began, he said he knew why detectives were questioning him because he’d seen his picture on the news.

The defense called one witness before the end of the day Wednesday. Trial is scheduled to continue today with more defense witnesses.

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