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News / Clark County News

Jury set to deliberate in trial of man accused of killing Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown

Oregon man claims self-defense in shooting

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: September 25, 2023, 7:33pm
5 Photos
Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik holds the revolver used in the shooting death of Clark County sheriff's Sgt. Jeremy Brown on Monday during the murder trial of Guillermo Raya Leon.
Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik holds the revolver used in the shooting death of Clark County sheriff's Sgt. Jeremy Brown on Monday during the murder trial of Guillermo Raya Leon. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Attorneys gave closing arguments Monday in the aggravated murder trial of the Salem, Ore., man accused of fatally shooting Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown.

Guillermo Raya Leon, 28, 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.

Prosecutor Tony Golik told the jury there’s no doubt Raya Leon knew what he was doing when he armed himself and took a route to confront Brown where the detective wouldn’t see him approaching. He told the jury Raya Leon had correctly identified undercover officers who were following them earlier in the day, so Raya Leon knew they were being watched.

Defense attorney Therese Lavallee said Raya Leon’s brother and sister-in-law didn’t believe him when he told them he thought the person in the Jeep was a law enforcement officer. She said if Raya Leon intended to kill Brown, he wouldn’t have walked up to his driver’s door and talked to him.

She also argued he and the others would have loaded their stolen guns and ammunition back into the SUV they left the scene in. Instead, she said they left their “treasure” behind.

Lavallee said she’s not arguing against many of the crimes Raya Leon is charged with, except the aggravated murder charge.

“We do not dispute that Guillermo was trafficking firearms,” Lavallee said. “We do not dispute that he was in unlawful possession of both a Glock (handgun) and a revolver. We do not dispute that he stole a car. We do, however, dispute the degree of homicide he was charged with.”

Throughout his argument, the prosecutor played for the jury clips of Raya Leon’s recorded police interview. He held up the revolver Raya Leon used to shoot Brown and the hoodie Raya Leon put on before confronting Brown. He demonstrated the way Raya Leon hid the revolver in the front pocket of the sweatshirt.

The attorneys argued whether Raya Leon knew Brown was a law enforcement officer. Lavallee said her client suspected Brown was an officer, but he didn’t know for sure.

Lavallee noted that Brown was not supposed to have any contact with the suspects he was watching and Brown’s purpose was to blend in. She said Brown also didn’t identify himself as an officer when Raya Leon surprised him.

Golik emphasized that Brown was startled when Raya Leon sneaked up on him. The detective was sitting in an unmarked red SUV, with his computer on his lap. The prosecutor argued Raya Leon was the first aggressor, which takes his self-defense claim off the table.

“Jeremy Brown is sitting in his vehicle,” Golik said. “He doesn’t know the defendant is coming. He catches him off guard, he catches him scared and he shoots him from behind.”

Golik also noted that after the shooting, Raya Leon sped away from the complex, changed his clothes, left the state and remained armed with a gun.

“These are not the actions of somebody who acted in self-defense,” Golik said. “These are the actions of somebody who was not giving up.”

The jury is scheduled to begin deliberations this morning.