This is how the King County Sheriff’s Office described what led to the November 2019 shooting death by two undercover deputies of Anthony Chilcott, wanted for stealing a hot-rod pickup truck and a poodle named Monkey:
“The suspect began ramming the detective’s vehicle,” according to a sheriff’s news release the day of the shooting, Nov. 25, 2019. “They exited their vehicle to make contact with the suspect, who was seated in the truck, and an altercation ensued. During the encounter, both detectives shot the suspect and he died at the scene.”
Here’s what really happened, an investigation would show:
The detectives, in civilian clothes and driving an unmarked SUV with Oklahoma plates, rammed Chilcott’s stolen Ford F-150 Raptor pickup after a sheriff’s supervisor had twice refused to authorize a pursuit. Witnesses say they pushed his truck across an intersection near Cumberland and onto a string of roadside boulders, where it was high-centered and disabled.
The detectives — unidentifiable to witnesses as police officers, behind scraggly beards and ball caps — used a hammer and their handguns to smash the truck’s windows while the unarmed Chilcott vainly shifted gears and spun the truck’s tires.
Deputy George Alvarez reached through the shattered glass to grab at Chilcott with his left arm, apparently trying to shut down the roaring truck, shredding his Patagonia down parka and cutting his knuckles and palm.
Then, Alvarez placed the barrel of his customized Glock handgun against the side of Chilcott’s head and pulled the trigger, point blank. Next to him, Deputy Joshua Lerum fired a bullet into Chilcott’s head from about a foot away.
Chilcott, 36, who had a long history of petty offenses and no love for law enforcement — but no serious criminal history — died instantly, his foot still on the accelerator.
Both deputies would later say they feared for their lives if Chilcott managed to free the stuck truck. Alvarez said Chilcott tried to grab his gun during the struggle.
While King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht concurred with their decision to resort to deadly force, she concluded that whatever threat Chilcott posed in that moment existed solely because Alvarez had made a string of bad decisions and tactical mistakes that escalated the situation, endangered his partner and public and led to the shooting — his fifth with the Sheriff’s Office, the fourth to take a life.
On March 25, she fired him.
It was the second time Alvarez’s supervisors have sought to fire him from the King County Sheriff’s Office, questioning his judgment and use of force. Alvarez’s attorney says he plans to appeal his dismissal and that his actions the day of the shooting were justified.
Trauma and grief
Anthony “Tony” Chilcott and his family have deep roots in South King County, residents of Black Diamond and its environs since the 1930s, according to his mother, Monica Crotty. The family also has a long history of calamity, poverty and heartache, which Crotty says battered Chilcott particularly hard.
Tony Chilcott attended, but never graduated from, Enumclaw High School and was a gifted baseball player, his mother said. School was part of the reason he stayed with his father when he and Crotty split when Tony was about 12, his mother said, but a chaotic home life and personal trauma undermined his efforts.
“Tony struggled with this all through school,” Crotty said, recalling periods where his father’s ramshackle two-story rambler near downtown Black Diamond would be without water or electricity. “There were days he couldn’t go to school because his laundry wasn’t done.”
In 2002, Tony’s best friend, Robert Harrison, was shot and killed by a King County sheriff’s deputy following a car chase — Crotty shakes her head at the irony — and, two years later, his beloved 17-year-old little sister, Angela, was killed as a passenger on a motorcycle that struck a tree while its driver was running from a Pierce County sheriff’s deputy.
It was Chilcott who had to identify his sister’s body, his mother and younger sister, Amanda Castro of Dickinson, Texas, recalled.
“He was just never the same,” said Crotty, 58, who lives in Enumclaw. “The two of them were very close, and to see her like that, it took something from him that just never came back.”
Laurie Rikansrud, 38, of Bonney Lake, met Chilcott through her brother and recalled a “hilarious” young man gradually overtaken by grief and an unsettled lifestyle.
Chilcott “never seemed troubled, he always had a grin. If he cared for you, you knew it,” she said. But the smile started to fade when Harrison was killed, she said, then came his sister’s horrific death, which wiped it away completely.
Angela’s death also began a spiral for Chilcott’s father, Richard, an out-of-work carpenter who struggled with addiction and health problems. Crotty said not long after Angela died, Richard lost his house in Black Diamond, where Tony had a room in the attic because his father rented the bedrooms to friends. Richard Chilcott moved into a trailer parked at nearby Green River Gorge, where Tony would find him dying from a stroke in May 2007.
Crotty said Chilcott had remained close to his grandmother, Ella May Walker, a longtime social fixture in the town of Black Diamond who was known to many simply as “Granny.” He lost her in August of 2010, when Crotty’s brother, Cecil, slashed the 86-year-old woman to death in a psychotic frenzy. He was determined to be incompetent to stand trial and was committed to Western State Hospital.
“Tony would go to his grandma’s to take a shower, maybe get a little money,” Crotty said. “After she was gone, Tony had nobody. After that, he was mostly homeless.”
Chilcott was often living on the streets and at one point spent months in a tool shed behind the now-abandoned house that had been repossessed from his father. Crotty said her son had a history of run-ins with Black Diamond police and the Sheriff’s Office, and claimed routine harassment.
Chilcott’s criminal history includes more than a dozen citations issued by Black Diamond police, King County, Tacoma and other jurisdictions for crimes such as criminal trespass, public intoxication and theft. His most serious charges, for resisting arrest and malicious mischief — he was accused of scuffling with Black Diamond police officers and damaging the back of a police cruiser to the tune of about $2,500 in October — had him in jail until two weeks before he died.
“He was troubled but he wasn’t violent,” Crotty said. “He just wanted to be loved.”
Crotty said his scuffle with officers — who reports show Tased him — happened when police arrested him the day before he was supposed to start a job busing dishes at local restaurant.
“It seems like every time he was on his way up, they’d come and push him back down,” his mother said.
Court records show Chilcott had no other history of violent or felony crimes, had pleaded not guilty to the allegations, and was released on his own recognizance.
A stolen dog
On Nov. 22, an Enumclaw contractor named Carl Sanders stopped for gas at a Genex station in Black Diamond, leaving his companion, a light-colored standard poodle named Monkey, waiting inside his gunmetal gray 2018 Ford Raptor while he went inside the convenience store to get a drink.
Surveillance video shows Chilcott in the parking lot, talking on a cellphone. Then he walks over, climbs in the Raptor with Monkey in the front seat and drives away, trailing the gas nozzle behind him.
The theft made the news thanks to the missing Monkey, and Black Diamond police issued a BOLO — “Be on the lookout” — to the media and law enforcement for the truck, the dog and Chilcott, who was described as having “reacted violently toward law enforcement in the past.”
Crotty doesn’t know why Chilcott stole the truck, but has a few guesses, all having to do with his increasing isolation and loneliness, compounded by homelessness and drug abuse — after he was shot, an autopsy found methamphetamine in Chilcott’s system. Crotty, who said Chilcott loved dogs, may have just been attracted to the companionship of Monkey, who was waiting patiently for Sanders to return.
The dog was returned to Sanders unharmed after Chilcott was shot.
The other reason was Danielle Linden, the unrequited love of his life.
Linden, who lives in Sparks, Nevada, and hasn’t seen Chilcott in 15 years, said she started receiving “weird, bizarre” emails from him out of the blue in late 2019.
“It was stuff like, he wanted me in his arms,” Linden said. “It was disturbing. I was worried.”
After she heard Chilcott had stolen the truck, Linden contacted the Black Diamond police, where a detective opened a stalking investigation. The wanted bulletin said police had cause to arrest him for the crime, although no criminal charges had been filed. Linden said in an interview she never felt Chilcott would hurt her.
“He was my best friend from second grade to high school,” Linden said. “He had never been violent toward me.”
But Linden didn’t love Chilcott, not the way he loved her, and she moved on with her life and out of state, while Chilcott pined for her, recalled Chilcott’s little sister, Amanda Castro. “He loved her so much,” she said. “He never got over her.”
Black Diamond police warned in their bulletin that Chilcott might be “en route to Nevada,” and they were right. A forensic review of the Raptor’s GPS and infotainment systems as part of the investigation into his death by Seattle Police detectives showed Chilcott drove to Sparks — a 700-mile, 13-hour drive — after stealing the Raptor, then turned around and came back.
Linden didn’t know he’d made the trip, and she wept when she found out. “He was one of the sweetest kids ever,” she said.
The morning of Nov. 25, 2019, about 11 a.m., King County dispatch received a report of the stolen Raptor on Green Valley Road. State troopers and King County deputies, including the undercover Alvarez and Lerum, converged on the area.
A brief chase ensued when Washington State Patrol Sgt. Joseph Zimmer spotted the Raptor and tried to catch it, but found his cruiser was no match for the 450-horsepower, turbocharged Raptor, which roared away even though the sergeant reported topping 100 mph trying to catch up, according to his statement to investigators.
While Chilcott was subject to arrest for any number of crimes at this point, including auto theft and driving on a suspended license, none was serious enough to justify the risks posed by a police pursuit, according to King County’s policy on pursuits, and the supervising sergeant on the scene twice broadcast that he would not authorize one, county dispatch records show.
At 11:51 a.m., Alvarez and Lerum reported spotting the Raptor northbound on Cumberland-Kanaskat Road outside Black Diamond. A minute later, Lerum, who handled the radio while Alvarez drove, updated to say they were following the truck, driving at roughly 50 mph.
Seconds later, Lerum broadcast, “He just rammed us!”
According to the sheriff’s termination letter, Alvarez had pulled up alongside Chilcott, who had stopped on the roadside, apparently to have a smoke. Chilcott, startled, drove forward and may have scraped the right front fender of the detectives’ SUV as he pulled away, prompting Lerum’s exclamation that they’d been “rammed,” the sheriff said.
A final report from the Seattle Police Department’s Force Investigation Team, which was called in by the Sheriff’s Office to investigate the shooting, does not reference Chilcott’s truck scraping the deputies’ SUV. The report includes interviews with 10 civilian witnesses, eight of whom were at a nearby bus stop.
What happened next, however, was seen by everyone: The detectives’ SUV rammed the driver’s side of the Raptor with enough force to push it across the intersection and onto the roadside rocks, the witnesses told SPD’s detectives.
“All independently stated they observed a white car or SUV hit the driver’s side of a gray or black truck,” as it attempted to either make a U-turn or turn left onto Southeast Kuzak Road, wrote SPD Detective Corey Lapinsky.
Lerum announced, “He’s stuck” on the radio 20 seconds after exclaiming Chilcott had rammed them, according to Lapinsky’s Force Investigation Report.
About a minute later, Lerum called “shots fired” and requested an aid car and supervisor.
Dispatch logs show 1 minute and 59 seconds elapsed between the ramming broadcast and the call that shots had been fired.
Alvarez declined to make a statement to the FIT investigators and did not meet with Sheriff Johanknecht for a name-clearing “Loudermill” hearing, provided under his union rights, before he was fired on March 25, according to the termination letter.
In justifying her decision, Johanknecht sustained two policy violations against the 21-year department veteran and SWAT team member: failure to adequately identify himself as a law enforcement officer and for “unsatisfactory performance … at a level significantly below” department standards.
“You made a series of decisions that were not tactically sound, were inconsistent with training and policy [and] placed your partner and you at severe risk,” the sheriff’s letter said. “Your actions demonstrated a disregard for the public, your partner and yourself.”
She exonerated both deputies on allegations of using excessive force, and found their decision to shoot Chilcott was justified despite the bad decisions that led to it.
The deputies’ job that day was to keep an undercover lookout for Chilcott, observe him if located and call in uniformed deputies to make the arrest, according to the letter.
Alvarez’s decision to pull up alongside the Raptor exposed his partner to significant danger had Chilcott been armed, the sheriff said. Approaching and physically engaging Chilcott, who was known to be hostile to law enforcement and driving recklessly in a high-performance vehicle, escalated the threat and increased the risk to the public, Johanknecht wrote. Backup was nearby and they knew it — a trooper pulled up seconds after the shooting, capturing its aftermath on his dash camera.
“There was no exigency requiring you to approach the suspect vehicle when not in a marked car wearing marked protective gear,” the sheriff wrote.
In his written report and later in an interview with FIT investigators, Trooper Chris Storton reported being reluctant to exit his vehicle at first because he didn’t know if the two men with guns were police until they showed their badges.
The King County Sheriff’s Office does not require deputies to wear body cameras and does not equip its vehicles with dash cameras.
Lerum remains a deputy but received a letter of reprimand for failing to wear his protective vest and sheriff’s raid jacket during the attempt to arrest Chilcott, said Sgt. Tim Meyer, the sheriff’s public information officer.
In a statement, Alvarez’s lawyer, Cooper Offenbecher, said the fired detective will appeal his termination, which he said was made by the sheriff over the recommendations of other senior management in the office.
“Detective Alvarez’s actions that day were necessary and justified in light of the clear and present danger that the suspect posed to the community — including children at a nearby bus stop,” Offenbecher said in a written statement, describing Chilcott as a “dangerous suspect” with an “extensive history of violent behavior toward law enforcement.”
Offenbecher pointed out that the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has reviewed the SPD investigation into Chilcott’s death and declined at this point to file charges against either deputy. Casey McNerthney, a spokesman for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, said no final decision will be made until the case has been presented to an inquest jury — a process currently in limbo due to court challenges.
History of force
In 2003, then-Sheriff Dave Reichert tried to fire Alvarez after he was criminally charged by King County along with another deputy and an officer from Des Moines for allegedly roughing up and threatening to kill a reluctant informant. After a trial resulted in a hung jury, Alvarez was given 20 days off but not terminated.
In 2014, Alvarez was given an oral reprimand for accepting prescription medication from a former co-worker without a prescription, according to Johanknecht’s termination letter, which did not provide details. She also notes that Alvarez has received numerous commendations, though she did not detail them.
Sheriff’s records and news reports also show Alvarez has been involved in an unusual number of shootings — five including Chilcott, four of which resulted in deaths. Three involved his participation as a member of the TAC-30 emergency response team, the county’s version of SWAT.
In September 2003, Alvarez and two other officers exchanged gunfire with David Taiese Fesili, who was part of a drug investigation that eventually led to the criminal charges being filed involving the informant. Fesili was killed and the officers cleared.
In August 2014, Alvarez was one of several officers who shot Tyrone Bandy, who was suspected of domestic violence and reportedly fired at deputies from inside his Burien home before he was shot and mortally wounded, according to reports at the time.
In August 2019, three months before Chilcott was killed, Alvarez was identified as one of three members of the TAC-30 team who fatally shot 55-year-old Joseph William Peppan during a drug raid in Shoreline.
Alvarez was also identified as having shot at a 29-year-old man who had barricaded himself in a White Center Subway sandwich shop in February 2019, however the suspect was not injured, according to news reports.
A life gone
Across the street from the spot where Tony Chilcott died, his friends and family have erected a small shrine for remembrance. It’s a ragtag affair, a white cross with a couple of empty Jack Daniels whiskey bottles, a candle, a small ceramic angel, a bottle of Coors beer. There’s a small rock painted with a flower.
Monica Crotty, Chilcott’s mother, said the memorial was torn down by the county the first time it was erected, so the next time they brought cement and made it permanent.
Something that has bothered Crotty and others who mourn Chilcott’s death was the focus on the missing Monkey, both before and after the shootings.
“It seemed like everybody was more concerned about the dog than what happened to my son,” said Crotty. “It’s been pretty hard to deal with.”
Even Monkey’s owner, Carl Sanders — who says he is a supporter of law enforcement — was uncomfortable with news coverage and conversations focusing on Monkey’s ordeal.
“That’s all anybody was talking about,” he said. “I’m on the cops’ side, but this was crazy. I mean, there was a human life lost.”