With demonstrations unfolding across the country over use of force by police, law enforcement were worried about the aftermath of the Olympia police shooting.
OLYMPIA — As word spread that protesters planned to demonstrate at the home of the Olympia police officer who shot two black men on May 21, area law enforcement braced for the worst.
Arrangements were made to send any demonstrators arrested the night of May 22 protesting at Officer Ryan Donald’s Lacey home to two different jails. Misdemeanor arrests were to be sent to a nearby jail in Nisqually, while those arrested on felonies would be taken to the Thurston County Jail.
With protests unfolding across the country in the past year over use of force by police, police in Olympia and Thurston County were concerned about the response to the Olympia shooting of the two stepbrothers, according to emails obtained by The Seattle Times under the state Public Disclosure Act.
The Olympia shootings “spawned some protests which we are hoping don’t become like Ferguson, New York, or Baltimore,” Thurston County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brad Watkins wrote in an email to another county official on the night of May 22.
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Donald shot Bryson Chaplin, 21, and Andre Thompson, 24, after reporting by radio that he had been assaulted with a skateboard during an encounter with the two men on a dark street. Donald, who is white, was not injured.
Donald was one of several officers responding to a shoplifting call that morning shortly before 1 a.m. Store employees had reported two men with skateboards tried to steal a case of beer and tossed the beer at the employees after being confronted and fled, according to police.
After mostly peaceful protests that day, law-enforcement officials worried a potentially violent protest would follow.
Fliers circulating for a protest at Donald’s residence were titled “home demo.”
“So let’s go to [Donald’s] house and show him what we think about the 21st century slave patrol,” read the flier.
Law-enforcement officers in Tacoma emailed that similar fliers had been stapled on telephone poles, worrying Watkins.
“If you start pulling people from out of the area … are they going to be peaceful like the [local protesters] have been?” Watkins said Tuesday.
Ed Sorger, chief of police services at The Evergreen State College, also encountered the fliers.
“This [flier] is being posted around campus and we will be taking them down as we find them,” Sorger wrote in an email on the morning of May 22 to area officials.
Sorger said this week that removing fliers isn’t normal policy, but “this particular flier was rather threatening.”
A protest at Donald’s home never fully materialized. Fewer than 10 people appeared at an appointed meeting spot with the intent to demonstrate but never marched to the house and no arrests were made, according to Lt. Paul Lower of the Olympia Police Department.
Other protesters appeared at the meeting spot to urge against a march to Donald’s home, Lower said.
While police were posted by the home that night, Donald was kept away as a security measure. There have been no more threats against Donald that have required him to be removed from his home, according to Lower.
Other details have emerged this week about the shooting itself.
Donald shot Chaplin at least four times, according to Watkins: once in the arm, twice in the chest and once in the side of his torso. The shots in the arm and torso passed through him, according to Watkins.
Chaplin is still hospitalized at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and is paralyzed from the waist down, according to David Beninger, a Seattle attorney representing both men.
One bullet is still lodged near Chaplin’s spine and it may not be possible to remove it, according to Beninger.
Thompson was shot once in the abdomen, according to Watkins. He is home and recovering from that injury, according to Beninger.
Watkins declined to say how many times Donald fired.
In a recording of a 911 call obtained by The Times, a neighbor reported hearing two bursts of multiple shots: four the first time and three or four the second time.
Another 911 call came from a neighbor whose home was struck by one of the bullets.
“There is cops and gunshots outside our house,” said the caller, “and one of the gunshots hit the window and broke it, right after we left that room.”
Donald has been interviewed as part of a four-agency investigation into the shooting, which is being led by the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. Lower, of the Olympia Police Department, said he expects the investigation to be complete sometime between June 25 and July 2, at which point he said the results would become public.