For the first time since stepbrothers Bryson Chaplin and Andre Thompson were shot by an Olympia police officer, their attorney is speaking out.
Chaplin, 21, is still recovering from his wounds at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said Seattle attorney David Beninger. Right now, Chaplin is paralyzed from the waist down, and one of the bullets is still lodged in his spine.
But Beninger said his client is in good spirits and working to regain mobility in the lower portion of his body.
“He’s keeping a positive attitude toward this, which is helpful,” Beninger said. “He’s working hard.”
Thompson, 24, is at home, recovering from broken ribs and internal injuries.
“Andre is in a different situation,” Beninger said. “He was only hit once, and the bullet went through. He’s functioning pretty well and is getting better.”
Beninger maintains that the shooting of the two young men by Olympia Officer Ryan Donald on May 21 was unjustified. He said some of the details of the case are still fuzzy, but one thing is clear: He says his clients were shot in the back.
Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts said during a May 21 press conference that Donald shot the young men after he was attacked with a skateboard on Cooper Point Road. Neither Chaplin nor Thompson was armed.
At the time, Thompson and Chaplin were suspects in a theft at an OIympia Safeway.
But Beninger said there’s no evidence that either of the young men attacked the officer.
“These two young men were shot in the back,” Beninger said. “What were they doing, attacking him as they ran away?”
He said he’s currently gathering facts about the case.
Beninger said it’s too early to tell how much the young men will end up paying in medical bills.
“We won’t know for awhile,” Beininger said. “Bryson still has a lot of work to do. He’s just started his rehabilitation.”
Chaplin and Thompson could face criminal charges. A task force made up of local law enforcement agencies is investigating the case, and the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office will decide whether Chaplin, Thompson and Donald will face charges.
The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office is spearheading the investigation, and Lt. Cliff Ziesemer said all of the physical evidence from the case has been sent to the Washington State Patrol crime lab — but processing the information could take weeks. Detectives are wrapping up interviews with witnesses.
Once the information is compiled, it will be sent to Prosecutor Jon Tunheim for consideration.
Beninger said he’s unsure whether he would defend Chaplin and Thompson if charges are filed.
“We’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it,” Beninger said. “But I do think that filing charges against these young men would just be a form of retaliation.”