Pierce County will not conduct an inquest into the officer-involved shooting death of a former Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier and Afghanistan war veteran who was killed last month at his University Place apartment.
The family of Brian McLeod requested the inquest – an independent review by the county medical examiner – on March 27 through attorney Karl Williams. The family asked Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy to call the formal investigation that would allow the medical examiner to call witnesses to open court for questioning by attorneys.
The purpose was to bring another level of scrutiny to the incident, Williams said.
Al Rose, the county’s executive director of justice services, responded with a letter to the family explaining why their request was denied.
“I am not aware of facts that would indicate the Sheriff’s investigation and Prosecutor’s review will be anything but a fair examination of the events,” Rose wrote.
Medical examiner Thomas Clark determined an inquest “was not warranted” and McCarthy deferred to his expert opinion, Rose wrote.
The decision doesn’t sit well with McLeod’s family, including his wife Katie McLeod.
“Our question is, if they have nothing to hide, why not do an inquest?” she said Thursday.
Brian McLeod was shot March 21 after a sheriff’s deputy and Fircrest police officer responded to the apartment complex where he lived. The shooting took place after a loud struggle between McLeod and a friend from his former Lewis-McChord Stryker battalion.
Sheriff’s department reports state McLeod walked out of his apartment with a shotgun. Officers felt an imminent threat, according to a sheriff’s department spokesman. Deputy J Sousley then shot him.
The county’s letter to McLeod’s family states that the Sheriff’s Department, which is investigating the shooting, has told them the lead detective on the case is available to meet with them.
Rose’s letter implies access to the investigator and a public records request to review the investigation once complete would provide the family with the same information that would be gleaned from an inquest.
Katie McLeod and her attorney say the Sheriff’s Department has not yet contacted her or family members, beyond a phone call the night her husband was killed.
“That’s one of our big concerns and why we’re so confused and upset,” she said. “It’s been three weeks and they have done nothing to reach out to us.”
The county’s letter also deferred to Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, saying as a separately elected state official he could call for an inquest if he felt one was necessary.
Lindquist said Thursday he had no plans to make that request.
“At this point there’s no reason to think the truth won’t be obtained through the normal protocol,” he said.
In an officer-involved shooting the sheriff’s department conducts an investigation and then gives it to the prosecutor’s office for review. The prosecutor’s office conducts its independent review to determine whether the shooting was lawful or justifiable under state law.
An inquest has not be held in Pierce County since 2005. It was called in that case because the officers involved would not cooperate with the Sheriff’s Department investigation, Lindquist said.
The Department has not turned its investigation of the McLeod killing over to Lindquist’s office.
The denial of the inquest request means McLeod’s family will have to wait for the investigation to be complete before deciding whether to take additional legal action, Williams said.
“They just want an understanding of the truth of what occurred,” he said. “They are not contemplating any immediate action or something of that nature.”
Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467