Two Tacoma police officers who fatally shot a mentally ill man after he fired a handgun at them in January were justified in their actions, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist announced Thursday.
Officers Sean Mallot and Matthew Verkoelen were on patrol Jan. 28 when they noticed a man who fit the description of a vehicle prowler they’d been searching for earlier in the night.
Police said the man was pacing, talking to himself and gesturing dramatically.
The officers stopped at a gas station at 1302 Puyallup Ave. and asked 42-year-old Robert David O’Connell for identification.
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They said O’Connell reached inside his jacket and pulled out a small-caliber revolver. He fired once at Mallott and once at Verkoelen.
Neither officer was hit, and both returned fire as O’Connell tried to flee on foot. O’Connell fell to the ground after being shot several times but continued to move.
Mallott fired several more times after O’Connell refused to stop moving and brought his right hand close to his body as he tried to get up. O’Connell died at the scene.
In addition to O’Connell’s handgun, police also found a large fixed-blade knife tucked in his waistband and a smaller knife under his body.
Mallott, 33, has been with the department 21/2 years, while Verkoelen, 27, has been a Tacoma police officer 31/2 years.