Travis Ell, 64, apparently raised the pipe “as if he was going to swing it” and did not respond to commands to drop it, according to a new statement from Auburn police about the Sept. 9 shooting.
The officer who fatally shot Travis Ell feared for his life, and for the life of another person, when Ell approached them with a metal pipe while the officer investigated a report of vandalism, according to a statement from Auburn police.
The statement said Officer Jeff Lewis was under a carport at a condominium complex around 8:20 p.m. Sept. 9 when he noticed Ell, 64, making unintelligible sounds.
The Friday statementgives the agency’s account of the fatal shooting. Regional authorities who specialize in reviewing officer-involved shootings are still investigating.
Lewis shined a flashlight on the man, and saw he was wearing a belt sheath with a large dagger, in addition to holding the pipe, according to the statement.
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The officer, who has been with the department for one year, had been called to the area in the 800 block of Pike Street Northeast following a report of a man breaking lights in carports with a stick, the statement says. An unidentified citizen was with him on the call.
While moving closer to the officer and citizen, the statement says, the 64-year-old man apparently raised the pipe “as if he was going to swing it” and did not respond to numerous commands to drop it. Ell came “within a step” of the officer and the other person, according to the statement.
The pipe was 1 inch in diameter, 3 feet long and weighed 8.6 pounds, according to the statement.
Lewis then opened fire, striking Ell three times. The officer gave first aid and called medics, according to the statement. Ell died at the scene.
“We do not know why this man approached Officer Lewis in such a threatening way and we are saddened that it had to come to this conclusion,” the statement says. “We believe he (Lewis) acted appropriately under the circumstances and very likely saved his own life as well as the life of the person who was riding with him.”
The statement continues:
“It is important to keep in mind that at the time of the shooting it was dark and from the time the man appeared and approached Officer Lewis to the time the shots were fired was only seconds.”
The regional investigators, called the Valley Investigation Team, include detectives from several South King County agencies.
Auburn police Commander Mike Hirman said last weekend the officer had been placed on paid administrative leave while the shooting was investigated.