Prosecutor releases Olympia officer-involved shooting documents

Investigators comb the scene of an officer-involved shooting May 21 on Cooper Point Road after two men who were suspected of stealing from the west Olympia Safeway, and were later shot by an Olympia police officer.
Investigators comb the scene of an officer-involved shooting May 21 on Cooper Point Road after two men who were suspected of stealing from the west Olympia Safeway, and were later shot by an Olympia police officer. Staff photographer

The Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office has released the majority of the documents related to the investigation into the officer-involved shooting on May 21 in response to a public disclosure request.

Accounts from police officers, witnesses, victims and the investigators paint a picture of what happened early that morning, when Olympia police Officer Ryan Donald shot and injured theft suspects Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin on Cooper Point Road.

An investigation of the incident by the Critical Incident Task Force, a team of local law enforcement agencies, began almost immediately, with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office taking the lead. Because the Olympia Police Department was involved in the shooting, the department didn’t participate in the investigation.

The documents released do not include medical records that might provide information about the gunshot wounds to Thompson and Chaplin.

Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim’s office received a copy of the investigation report Aug. 6, and charging decisions for Donald and the two men are expected sometime in the next two weeks.

Thurston County Detective David Claridge drafted much of the report, summarizing interviews and evidence.

In his report, Claridge wrote that both Thompson and Chaplin were initially transported to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia. One of the men, later identified as Thompson, was shot once. He was transported to Tacoma General Hospital.

The man later identified as Chaplin sustained “several gunshot wounds” and underwent surgery at St. Peter before he was transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. According to Claridge’s report, Chaplin sustained paralysis to his “lower extremities.”

Two other Olympia officers, Luke O’Brien and Paul Evers, had responded to Safeway after employees reported the attempted theft. According to Claridge’s report, they were the first officers on the scene after shots were fired.

O’Brien reported that they were going to Donald’s location when they heard over the radio that shots had been fired. Donald reported that the two men had fled into the woods, and O’Brien and Evers entered the woods to try to locate the men. That’s when they heard additional shots.

Evers reported that when he exited the woods, he saw Donald standing with his flashlight out and his gun unholstered. The two men were lying on the ground.

Thurston County Detective Ben Elkins spoke with Thompson the following day, and reported that Thompson said neither he nor Chaplin had stopped at any store that evening. He also said that neither he nor his brother used their skateboards as weapons, or to protect themselves from police, according to Claridge’s report.

Shortly after the shooting, Donald provided a short “public safety statement,” according to Claridge’s report.

Detectives scheduled another interview with Donald for May 26. By that time, Donald had hired attorney Saxon Rodgers. Claridge and Tumwater Detective Jen Kolb conducted the second interview with Donald, with Rodgers and Evers present, according to Claridge’s report.

Donald told detectives that at about 12:50 a.m. he responded to reports of a theft and assault at Safeway. He said he didn’t respond to the store, but began looking for suspects in the area.

He said that after about 20 minutes, he located two men matching the provided description on the 1200 block of Cooper Point Road. He parked about 20 feet from the men — one was wearing a light-colored shirt, and the other was wearing a dark-colored shirt. He exited the vehicle and asked the two men to sit on the ground.

He said that one of the men charged at him, raising a skateboard over his head. Donald said he believed that the man was going to strike the hood or windshield of the patrol car. He said that he took his gun out of its holster, and identified himself as an Olympia police officer. The man lowered his skateboard, and Donald put the gun back in its holster and walked toward the back of the patrol vehicle.

Donald said that he stepped toward the two men to interview them, and the man in the light shirt grabbed his uniform sleeve, and he said he felt like he was being pulled to the ground with his arm pinned against his chest.

He said he saw the man in the dark shirt stand over him and raise his skateboard above his head. Donald said he believed the man was preparing to strike him with the metal trucks of the skateboard, he said.

Donald said he believed that he was being overpowered, and that he could be injured or killed. He said he believed that his gun was the only tool he could use to defend himself.

He fired at the man in the dark shirt, who lowered his skateboard. The other man let go of him.

He reported that the men ran off along Cooper Point Road, then entered the woods. Donald said he walked to where he had last seen the men.

The man in the dark shirt reappeared, and charged at Donald with the skateboard held over his head. Donald said he commanded the man to stop, but he kept charging toward him. Donald fired several rounds at the man.

He said the man in the light shirt began to run toward him, yelling. When he was about five feet away, the man tried to grab the gun. Donald said he believed that the man was going to overpower him, take his gun and kill him.

Donald said he fired at the man, according to Claridge’s report.

In his report, Claridge wrote that he and Thurston County Detective Ben Elkins went to Harborview on May 27 to interview Chaplin. Chaplin initially agreed to an interview, and said that he didn’t remember much about the incident.

Claridge wrote that as he began to ask questions, he was interrupted by Wayne Chipo, who identified himself as Chaplin’s father. Chipo said Chaplin shouldn’t answer any questions without an attorney present.

According to the report, Claridge left his contact information with Chaplin.

Several items were submitted to the Washington State Crime Lab, according to Claridge’s report. Evidence included Donald’s uniform shirt, Donald’s gun, 11 shell casings recovered at the scene, a black sweatshirt and a black tank top.

Lab results showed that the 11 casings were fired from Donald’s gun.

The full police report — including the transcripts of testimony from witnesses and involved parties — can be found here.

Amelia Dickson: 360-754-5445