Investigation begins into fatal casino shooting by Thurston County deputy

A man was shot and killed by a Thurston County Sheriff’s deputy Tuesday night in Rochester.
A man was shot and killed by a Thurston County Sheriff’s deputy Tuesday night in Rochester. KIRO TV

A man was shot and killed by a Thurston County Sheriff’s deputy Tuesday night outside the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester after refusing instructions from the deputy to drop his weapon, according to the sheriff’s office.

Daniel James, 55, from Lakewood, was shot multiple times. He was taken to Providence St. Peter Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The deputy was not injured and is now on paid administrative leave. He has not been identified, although Sgt. Carla Carter with the sheriff’s office said he has 10 years experience in law enforcement.

According to the sheriff’s office, deputies responded to a call near state Route 12 and Anderson Road at about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday. The caller was concerned because the man left the home acting erratically and was armed with a pistol.

The deputy later located the man’s vehicle in the casino parking lot. The man exited the vehicle holding the pistol and approached the deputy, refusing orders to drop it before he was shot, according to the sheriff’s office.

In an interview Wednesday, Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza called the shooting a tragedy.

“How horrible is that for the family and the deputy that went through that?” he said. “I’m sorry it happened … where there were a lot of civilians trying to enjoy the night, and we had to be involved in something like this.”

A team of investigators from the Lewis, Mason, Grays Harbor and Pacific county sheriff’s offices will now investigate the shooting.

“The role of the team is to look at all the criminal elements that could be going on in this (case). It is not an internal review of policies or procedures,” said Chief Dusty Breen of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, which is leading the investigation.

Breen said this sort of investigation typically takes three to four weeks. Snaza’s twin brother, Robert Snaza, is the sheriff in Lewis County, though Breen said no special steps would be taken in the investigation because of that.

The team will submit a report to prosecutors in Thurston County, who will decide whether to file criminal charges. To convict an officer of a crime for using deadly force, Washington law requires prosecutors show the officer acted with “malice” and without “good faith.”

This is the latest of a small string of fatal shootings by law enforcement in Thurston County over the past two years.

In December 2015, 30-year-old Nephi Leiataua was shot and killed by a Thurston County Sheriff’s SWAT team after a three-hour standoff at a home near Lacey.

In January 2016, 29-year-old Joel Anthony Nelson of Lacey was shot and killed by a Thurston County Sheriff’s deputy during an altercation near Olympia Regional Airport. According to the sheriff’s office, Nelson punched the deputy in the face, stole his SUV and crashed into a passing car before Nelson was shot.

In July, a Washington State Patrol trooper shot and killed 22-year-old Michael Anthony Rude of Kent on Interstate 5 in Lacey.

Authorities say Rude told a 911 dispatcher he was suicidal, had a knife and wanted to attack any police officer who pulled him over. When he was pulled over in Lacey, he advanced at troopers with a knife and was shot.

Abby Spegman: 360-704-6869, @AbbySpegman