A Tacoma police officer whose gunfire mortally wounded a teenager last year was justified in opening fire on the stolen car the young man was driving, authorities said Tuesday.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said officer Brett Beall acted within the law when he opened fire on a car driven by Austin Joseph Welling on Nov. 27. Welling, 18, was hit four times and died of his wounds Jan. 31.
The officer acted within the law to protect himself when Welling “refused to surrender and backed the stolen car toward the officer,” Lindquist said.
The incident began about 9:30 p.m. when Beall spotted a stolen vehicle near East 34th Street and Pacific Avenue. The car took off with Beall in pursuit, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Beall later found the car stopped in an alley in the 3400 block of East F Street. Thinking it was abandoned, he got out of his patrol car and approached the stolen vehicle on foot.
“As officer Beall approached, the brake lights came on and the vehicle backed towards him at fast speed,” the prosecutor’s statement says. “Fearing his life was in danger, officer Beall shot his duty handgun several times at the vehicle.”
The stolen car, with Welling at the wheel, crashed into Beall’s patrol car.
At the time, Welling was wanted on warrants charging him with unlawful possession of a stolen vehicle and second-degree robbery, authorities report.
The shooting was investigated by the Medical Examiner’s Office and Tacoma police, as well as prosecutors.
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644