The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

Reviewing an officer-involved shooting

Guest Column


Last updated 7/13/2020 at 9:57am

Not long ago, I reported on an officer involved shooting that occurred in Adams County. I had been asked to review the investigation to make sure it was independent of the Ritzville Police department and make the decision in the case about whether the shooting was justified. I did, and found the shooting was completely justified by the suspect's attack on the trooper with a machete.

This case had been referred to the State Attorney General for review, but they declined to be involved because they had "other priorities." Now the Attorney General has decided to review all officer involved shootings since January 1. They made this decision as a result of the increased scrutiny that has focused on law enforcement agencies as a result of the riots in Seattle and other places since the murder of Mr. Floyd in Minnesota. All this publicity has changed their priorities.

I hope the Attorney General has an even-minded approach to the analysis of the various situations. It is easy to criticize a split-second decision an officer makes when he his being shot at or threatened, so I hope they are fair. For example, below is a description of a recent Grant County incident.

In an assault case last year, it literally took five cops to subdue a 5'7"- 150 lb defendant who was high on meth. They contacted him to simply ask why he was wandering around in a residential neighborhood trying to break into cars. The defendant overpowered the first cop, even though the officer emptied a can of pepper spray in the defendant's face and mouth--to no effect. The suspect also tried to get the cop's own radio cord wrapped around the cop's neck. During the fight, the suspect nearly gained control of the cop's gun. The officer had to throw his firearm as far away as he could so the defendant couldn't shoot the cop with cop's own gun. The struggle lasted five to 10 minutes. Thankfully, four other cops arrived in the nick of time to assist the first officer, and together they all managed to subdue the suspect.

This case did not involve the use of deadly force, but could have. The officer would have been totally justified in shooting the suspect, but he didn't. Our cops have to deal with this kind of nonsense nearly every day on a moment's notice. I totally support the good work of the police and I think we all should.

The sad thing is that there was no public commendation for nearly losing his life and sparing this career criminal, who has had over 10 prior convictions. But if the officer had done one thing questionable or the suspect had been the right color, the armchair quarterbacks in cool offices of the Attorney General, who have hours to question what happened, would have critized him and urged prosecution.

– Tim Rasmussen is prosecuting attorney for Stevens County.


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