A panel of five county prosecutors in Washington state will review the police shooting of a Richland man.
Charlie Suarez, 32, was wounded in February on a walking path next to Highway 240 after police say he ran from Richland police Officer Christian Jabri.
Few details were released about the actual shooting by the seven-year veteran officer. And Suarez was never charged with a crime.
In recent weeks, detectives with the Tri-Cities regional Special Investigations Unit turned over a 5,000-page report on the shooting to Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller to decide if the shooting was justified.
On Friday, Miller said he is asking some members of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys for their opinion on whether Jabri should face criminal charges.
Miller said there is an “appearance of fairness issue” since his assistant chief civil deputy prosecutor, Ryan Lukson, is also Richland’s mayor.
There also has been a lot of debate at the state level over a prosecutor’s role in investigating officer-involved shootings since prosecutors work closely with police on criminal cases.
“There are concerns about the appearance of fairness. While prosecutors had concerns about the varying (state) proposals, we are mindful that the Legislature did pass legislation concerning the investigation of these crimes,” he said.
“We are also aware of cases where the governor exercised his statutory authority to appoint the Attorney General to take over the prosecutor’s authority in those cases,” he said.
Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, the association’s president, said the foundation of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys program has existed since he was elected in 2010.
This will be the second case in Washington state reviewed by a team of prosecutors.
The five in this case will include Meyer, and the association’s vice-president Dolly Hunt, the Pend Oreille County prosecutor.
Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell, Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik and Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim will also participate in reviewing the circumstances of the Richland shooting.
The process is optional and their conclusion is not binding.
Meyer said once they finish reviewing the case, the group either will come back with a consensus recommendation, or if they are divided, they could offer a variety of options.
Miller will make the ultimate decision on whether Jabri faces a criminal charge.
Bike path shooting
Suarez was hospitalized in February for reported gunshot wounds to his leg and hip. After he was released, he was not booked into the jail.
In the aftermath, police did not reveal if Suarez had a weapon on him or if one was found at the scene. Suarez had been ordered not to own or possess any guns as part of an earlier conviction.
On Feb. 1, Suarez was driving on Highway 240 near Wellsian Way about 7 p.m. when he crashed and flipped his car.
Witnesses saw Suarez running away and gave police his description, according to scanner reports.
Officer Jabri was searching the walking trails parallel to the highway when he spotted Suarez.
Jabri — who has been with the Richland Police Department for two years — can be heard on the radio broadcast saying he was starting to pursue the driver.
Within seconds, Jabri reports, “Shots fired. Shots fired. Shots fired. Suspect is down.”
Police and firefighters provided aid to the injured Suarez, including putting a tourniquet on this leg.
It’s not clear what prompted Jabri to fire at Suarez along the jogging path.
The SIU team, with detectives from other law-enforcement agencies other than Richland, took over the investigation the night of the shooting.