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Friday, December 8, 2023
Dec. 8, 2023

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Ballistics experts give differing opinions in trial of man accused of killing Clark County sheriff’s sergeant

Murder trial to continue Monday

By , Columbian staff reporter

Jurors heard conflicting opinions from ballistics experts Friday at the conclusion of the third week of the aggravated murder trial of the man accused of fatally shooting Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown.

Guillermo Raya Leon, 28, of Salem, Ore., is accused of shooting 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.

In addition to aggravated first-degree murder, Raya Leon is 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 claiming self-defense in the shooting.

A forensic scientist hired by the defense, Kay Sweeny, told the jury he believed Brown fired two shots out of his vehicle’s driver’s-side window. He opined that Brown had fired the first shot and said the bullet struck a cargo van across the parking lot. He then said he thinks Raya Leon fired, which was shortly followed by another shot from Brown that struck the driver’s-side window frame of his vehicle.

He said he believed Brown’s second shot struck the window frame as a reaction to being shot.

Then, Sweeny said, Brown fired five shots out of his passenger’s-side rear window. He couldn’t sequence those shots. He also said he thought another bullet investigators collected across the parking lot was not from the shooting because of a yellow substance on the base of the bullet.

Following his testimony, the defense rested its case. Raya Leon declined to testify in his own defense.

Prosecutors then recalled a forensic scientist with the Washington State Patrol’s crime lab, Johan Schoeman. He disagreed with Sweeny’s opinion. Schoeman said he believed the bullet found in the van ricocheted off the window frame. He said that bullet had red paint on it, consistent with striking Brown’s Jeep.

Sweeny had said he thought the red markings on the bullet were not car paint but were from a red canvas bag the bullet had struck inside the van.

Schoeman said the substance found on the other bullet did not exclude it from the scene.

A crime scene scientist called by the state previously said he could not determine the sequence of the shots.

Raya Leon said in a recorded police interview that he didn’t know who fired first. He also said he heard six or seven shots fired as he ran away.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday afternoon.

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