It will be weeks before the investigation into the police officer who shot two unarmed men last week after they allegedly tried to steal beer from a grocery store is concluded, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.
OLYMPIA — It could be weeks before the investigation into the shootings of two unarmed men last week by an Olympia police officer is concluded, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.
Meanwhile, the family of the two wounded stepbrothers has retained an attorney, according to a news statement by the Sheriff’s Office, one of several agencies investigating the shootings.
Investigators Tuesday interviewed Olympia Police Department Officer Ryan Donald, who gave his account of the shooting that last week sparked protest marchers and gatherings in the city.
Donald early Thursday shot Bryson Tyler Chaplin, 21, and Andre Damon Thompson, 24, both of Olympia, after they allegedly tried to steal a case of beer from the Westside Safeway.
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Chaplin and Thompson are black; Donald, who was not injured, is white. Donald, 35, has been with the department for three years, and is now on administrative leave.
The Sheriff’s Office did not release any more details of the shooting or of what it learned from its interview with Donald.
Much of the investigation will be finished by the end of next week, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
But evidence gathered from the scene must be submitted to a Washington State Patrol crime lab.
That could take six weeks or more, after which the final report will be sent to the Prosecutor’s Office for review.
Donald was one of several officers who responded to a shoplifting call at the Westside Safeway store shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday. Employees reported a pair of men with skateboards had tried to steal beer and, when confronted, threw the beer at the employees before fleeing, according to police.
Stopping the men near the store a short time afterward, Donald shot one man after he reported being assaulted by a skateboard, investigators have said. The two men then fled into nearby woods, and when they emerged, Donald shot again.
Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts has said an officer has “the right to defend himself” if attacked with an object that could be used as a deadly weapon.
One of the bullets fired by Donald went through a window in a nearby house, information that was reported by The Stranger newspaper.
There were no injuries at the house. Lt. Paul Lower of the Olympia police said an investigative team performed some ballistic analysis there, Lower said.
Detectives interviewed Thompson last week while he was at Tacoma General Hospital. He is recovering at home, according to The Olympian. Thompson will be asked for a more detailed statement, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Chaplin will be asked to provide a statement as well.
But, “his family has advised us that they have obtained an attorney for both Bryson and Andre and it is not known if they are willing to provide a statement,” according to the office. A call to a family member was not returned.
Residents gathered again Tuesday evening at Olympia City Hall to express their concern about the shootings. Several dozen stood out front, the majority chanting the names of the injured men and “black lives matter.” Mixed in were a handful of pro-police demonstrators.
Inside, during a City Council meeting, an overflow crowd sounded off during public comment. People spoke about the need to address structural racism and for having more civilian oversight of law enforcement. Rafael Ruiz, 32, said the city needs to be transparent about the shooting and investigation.
“These wounds go really deep,” said Ruiz, adding later: “You can’t make light of this.”
Olympia police on Monday posted a question-and-answer page related to its hiring practices and why the department doesn’t immediately interview officers after shootings.
The delay, according to the webpage, gives investigating detectives time to examine evidence and witness statements, in order to know what to ask the officer who was involved in the shooting.
Susan Gregg, a spokeswoman for Harborview Medical Center, where Chaplin was ultimately taken, said Tuesday that the family of the men had requested privacy and that she couldn’t give an update on Chaplin’s condition.
The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office is leading an investigation by four agencies into the shooting.