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News / Northwest

WSU student who was shot at by police will not face charges

By Garrett Cabeza, The Spokesman-Review
Published: April 10, 2024, 7:37am

SPOKANE — The Whitman County Prosecutor’s Office declined to charge a 20-year-old Washington State University student who was shot at by a campus police officer after prosecutors say the student tried to “induce the police to kill him” last month in Pullman.

John Bazan was booked into the Whitman County Jail on suspicion of assault, resisting arrest, intimidation of a public servant and obstruction after the March 27 incident that led to WSU Police Officer Dillon Tiedeman Mueller firing a shot that missed Bazan.

Bazan has since been released from jail and was staying at an inpatient mental health facility as of last week, said Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy.

“After reviewing the report, watching the video and reading the suicide note that he left behind, there was no doubt in my mind as to what happened, which is that Mr. Bazan very tragically decided to kill himself with what is often called suicide by cop,” Tracy said. “He made the decision to try to induce the police to kill him.”

Police were called to Global Scholars Hall dormitory after Bazan called 911 to say a student had a knife and described himself, according to a WSU police news release.

Tracy said Bazan said the student, which turned out to be Bazan, was threatening people with the knife.

Two officers confronted Bazan, who had his hands in his sweatshirt pockets and moved toward them, police said.

Officers told him to stop and take his hands out of his pockets, but he didn’t comply, police said. An officer deployed a Taser, but it was not effective.

Bazan “removed his hands from his sweatshirt in an aggressive manner” as he continued to move toward officers. Tiedeman-Mueller then shot at Bazan but missed, sending a bullet into the hallway wall, police said.

Officers then shocked Bazan with a Taser and took him into custody.

Tracy said Bazan took his hands out of his pockets in a “quick fashion” and had an object in his hands that was difficult for police to see. Tracy said he was uncertain what the object was but that it was not a weapon.

He said Mueller did not know at the time that Bazan didn’t have a weapon and had to make a “split-second decision” whether to fire his weapon. Mueller was placed on administrative leave.

The regional officer-involved shooting investigative team, the Palouse Area Law Enforcement Critical Incident Investigative Response Team, is investigating the shooting.

Tracy said it was clear Bazan was not trying to hurt anyone but himself. He said Bazan was remorseful after he was taken into custody and knew he should not have tried to kill himself.

Bazan has since been taken to a mental health facility by court order.

Tracy said he could have pursued gross misdemeanor charges of obstructing a public servant but declined to charge because he did not want to interrupt Bazan’s mental health treatment with criminal prosecution.

“A misdemeanor conviction on his record will not protect the community, whereas Mr. Bazan getting treatment for his severe mental health issues will help the community in the future,” Tracy said.