New police oversight: March 2022 ruled police officer’s use of force justified in ‘very grim’ apartment shooting

New police oversight: March 2022 ruled police officer’s use of force justified in ‘very grim’ apartment shooting

By Lorilyn Lirio

Community representatives for the Capital Metro Independent Investigation Team believed the police officer involved in the March 2022 shooting incident complied with the use of force policy.

At Tuesday’s Olympia City Council meeting, Olympia Police District Lt. Col. Dan Smith gave the city council an update on the investigation into the March 31, 2022, officer-involved shooting incident.

Smith said the investigation ended on February 2 of this year. He noted that the team was made up of highly trained and experienced detectives from the Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and Yelm police departments.

He added that the investigation was completed with 18 investigators and evidence technicians.

Citing the Pierce County District Attorney’s office, Smith said a review of the investigation found that it “met statutory requirements and appeared independent and fair. The officer’s use of force was justified and lawful.”

Smith said the detailed 100-page report could be obtained with a public disclosure request through the Lacey Police Department.


Smith recounted what happened on March 31, 2022, where officers were dispatched to an apartment complex at 1309 Fern Street where a neighbor reported that a suspect had set his porch on fire, attempting to pepper spray the neighbor because the latter was trying to put out the fire.

He added that the officers were very familiar with the suspect, who was known to have mental health issues. Smith said police officers had responded numerous times to his residents to offer mental health help.

Smith said they deployed crisis responders the night of the incident. “Investigating officers develop probable cause to arrest suspect for reckless arson and assault.”

As the officers knocked on the door, the suspect got out and sprayed one of the officers and he went back into the residence.

A search warrant was obtained authorizing law enforcement to enter the home to arrest him and search for evidence.

“Officers use multiple tactics to de-escalate the situation and avoid the use of force in part because of their knowledge of the suspect – his mental health state. We tried to use a mental health professional to convince him the suspect to leave his residence peacefully,” Smith told council members.

According to Smith, the suspect was armed with a machete and attacked the first officer who entered the bedroom.

“The machete attack immediately injured two officers. At that point, it was clear that the suspect threatened serious physical harm to the officers. Under the circumstances, there is no reasonable and effective alternative to using deadly force to stop the suspect from further offensive behavior,” Smith said.

community representatives

Three community representatives also appeared in council chambers and shared their input for the independent investigation.

Garrett Cooper is a CMIIT non-law enforcement community representative (NLECR) assigned to observe the critical incident. He is a retired army soldier, a non-commissioned officer specializing in logistics.

Cooper said he was called to the incident on the night of March 31. “We were told how things went, how they proceeded with the use of force policies. The apartment manager filmed it all,” Cooper said.

According to Cooper, the officers had every right to use force in the way they did. “Because the first officer was injured as well as the second officer. So to me, the shooting was as fair as it happened.”

“We need more crisis responders to work on any incident involving someone in trouble. That should be the first option in any incident where we have someone in crisis – mental or whatever the crisis may be ,” Cooper recommended.

Reiko Callner, another community representative assigned to observe the use-of-force incident, agreed with Cooper that the responding officers “did the things the law wanted them to do.”

When Callner arrived at the scene, he learned that two officers had been seriously injured, which could have resulted in death. She described the whole scene as “very bleak”.

According to Smith, the passage of I-940 created the independent investigative team. He said WAC139-12 establishes rules and criteria for determining what qualifies as an independent investigation of police use of deadly force. The IIT will look into the incident completely independent of the agency.

Since the WAC law went into effect in January 2020, this is the first critical incident in which the city has used community representatives.

“The new protocol would be a huge boon to the success of the legislation if there was an accumulation of statewide experiences to derive best practices for handling these situations,” Callner said.

She said putting in place standard operating procedures (SOPs) would be helpful to ensure people have minimum standards of best practice and help them know what to do.

Callner added that the SOP would be helpful for information agencies could pass on to them. “Pretty early on, I was asking how the suspect was doing and asking questions about how the cops were doing. The people I talked to weren’t sure what they were allowed to tell us.”

Callner added that the availability of information would help achieve the legislation’s goal of gaining and providing community trust and confidence in the way the police are doing their job.

“I think, just because of the lack of familiarity, and we haven’t done it that often, there’s a relative lack of transparency with the public,” Callner commented.

She said the press release released to the public doesn’t provide much information. “If the purpose of the exercise in large part is to be transparent and communicate to the community about ‘what happened here?’ ‘Why did the officers have to use their weapons?’ ‘Why were people almost killed?’ can be published should be published as soon as possible”.

Callner described the incident as a “straightforward case,” which helps determine whether the protocol meets the legislative intent. “This is a good one to examine and see if we can learn any message from it.”

Callner is an active, licensed attorney specializing in judicial ethics. She is a current member of the Civil Service Commission.

According to Anna Held, they held a two-day hearing in council chambers and heard testimony from all the officers involved in the use-of-force incident.

Held serves on the Olympia Police Department’s internal review board. She is a licensed attorney in Washington State and Oregon, specializing in administrative and constitutional law.

She said the purpose of the internal review board is to determine whether an officer’s use of force is consistent with internal policies set by the police department.

“The officers’ testimony established that the use of force was consistent with policy,” Held said.

The board also recommended that officers undergo training, particularly in handling small spaces.

“Training may be necessary, [but] that doesn’t mean any officer made mistakes that needed to be corrected…we want improvements even if no one made any mistakes,” Held said.

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