A pair of Lakewood police officers were justified in fatally shooting a man in a lumberyard in April, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said Thursday.
Lindquist ruled the death a justifiable homicide.
“The officers’ actions were in response to a perceived deadly threat,” the prosecutor said in a statement. “The loss of life here is regrettable and apparently due to a combination of circumstances, mental health issues and drugs, including methamphetamine.”
According to the medical examiner’s office, Covarrubias died from a gunshot wound to his head and had benzodiazepines and methamphetamine in his system at the time.
His family has hired attorney Ben Barcus to look into the death, an investigation that is continuing.
“I think that a full and complete investigation will tell us the truth of what occurred,” Barcus said Thursday.
The prosecutor’s office gave this account of Covarrubias’ death:
Butts and Hamilton were sent to the Pinnacle Lumber Co., 3600 108th St. SW, on April 21 after a call about a suspicious person.
They found Covarrubias on top of a 25-foot-high pile of lumber, and told him a ladder was coming for him to climb down.
Covarrubias didn’t respond to the officers and reached into his pocket and took out a black cellphone. The officers drew their guns and told him to put his hands up.
Instead, Covarrubias pointed the phone at the officers. Multiple witnesses said the phone looked like a gun, because of how he was holding it and pointing it toward the officers.
Butts and Hamilton then fired, hitting Covarrubias several times. He later died at the hospital.
Before the shooting, Covarrubias had gone to St. Clair Hospital in Lakewood and told staff members he wanted cameras in his eyes taken out. A social worker spoke with him, and Covarrubias said he’d used meth, and had not slept or eaten for three days.
About an hour before the shooting, he left the hospital on foot.
The day before, he’d called 911 several times to report shots fired at his home, and to say his family was missing. He called again to cancel his report, and told dispatchers he was “tripping.”
Dispatchers called back, and spoke with his father, who said his son was having delusions.
The prosecutor and medical examiner’s offices, Lakewood police and the Cooperative Cities Crime Response Unit (made up of multiple law enforcement agencies) investigated the shooting and found it justified under state law because the officers perceived a deadly threat.
Covarrubias had seven children, who family said he enjoyed camping and spending time with outdoors. He had been taking steps to become a mechanic, his family said.
Butts and Hamilton have worked at the department since 2004. Butts, 48 at the time of the shooting, has been in law enforcement since 1999. Hamilton, 39, has been an officer since 2001.