The investigation into the Oct. 2 shooting death of Justin Aguilar-Tofte by Longview police continues after the Cowlitz County coroner established cause of death as a single gunshot wound.
Aguilar-Tofte, 33, of Longview was killed Friday while allegedly fleeing from police trying to arrest him on a warrant. A Longview officer fired the fatal shot, according to a Friday Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office press release.
A Monday report from the coroner said that an Oct. 3 autopsy established the cause of death as a gunshot wound to the right underarm. It also listed the manner of death of a homicide, which “does not in any way establish criminal intent.”
More than 60 friends and family members gathered at 14th Avenue and Cyprus Street on Saturday night to celebrate the life of Aguilar-Tofte, who was shot and killed there by police Friday afternoon.
“We feel the love,” stepfather George Alderette told the crowd, many of whom had brought candles, balloons, stuffed animals and some of Aguilar-Tofte’s favorite drinks to toast his memory. “I want tonight to be a celebration of my son’s life.”
At the vigil, friends described Aguilar-Tofte, 33, as a genuine person who was always ready to lend a hand, as well as a loyal man with a good heart.
Many spoke through tears, saying while he had trouble with breaking the law in the past, he was working to put that behind him and start a new life. His mother, Cindy Aguilar-Alderette, said in an interview that her son had many friends who loved him dearly.
The Lower Columbia Major Crimes Team will investigate the shooting. The team is an independent investigation team created to meet the guidelines of a new state law and consists of detectives from Cowlitz County area law-enforcement agencies, Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office Chief Criminal Deputy Troy Brightbill said Monday.
Brightbill said Longview police will not participate in this investigation, as it is the involved agency. He did not identify the officer, or officers, involved, but said more information should be released later this week after the team conducts more interviews.
The shooting occurred around 1:30 p.m. on 14th Avenue and Cypress Street, after Longview Street Crimes detectives unsuccessfully tried to capture Aguilar-Tofte using less-than-lethal means, according to a news release.
According to a sheriff’s office press release, Aguilar-Tofte was armed, but the release did not say whether he tried to fire his gun at pursuing officers or identify the weapon. No officers were wounded during the event, the release said.
Aguilar-Tofte died at the hospital “from undisclosed injuries,” according to the press release. Over the past decade, he had been arrested multiple times on charges including drug possession and robbery, most recently Sept. 17 on suspicion of a felony drug offense, first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, resisting arrest and obstructing a public servant.
In a GoFundMe post from Aguilar-Tofte’s fiancée Laura Gomez, she called him a great man who “always put everyone before himself.”
“He impacted the lives of many and had a pure heart. This is an unfortunate situation and he didn’t deserve it,” she wrote.
Aguilar-Tofte was “never afraid to be himself and even if he only just met you, he would make sure you felt respected,” she added.