Above: Outside Olympia City Hall tonight, many expressed their support for Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin and their families.
By Janine Unsoeld
The Thursday night police shooting of two young African American men, Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin, has created an unprecedented outpouring of emotions, perspectives and demands that were heard this evening at tonight's council meeting at Olympia City Hall.
“We need to take this wake up call very seriously and not sleep through it,” Neil Peck said as he concluded his comments in front of Olympia city councilmembers and the community tonight.
Peck lives 100 yards from where he heard the shots fired by Olympia police officer Ryan Donald last Thursday. Peck was the speaker who provided an account of what he heard that night at a community gathering that same evening at Temple Beth Hatfiloh.
Peck was the first of over 30 passionate, articulate speakers tonight who voiced their feelings, perspectives, and concerns to council members. The council dispensed with most of the evening’s agenda to accommodate the speakers, who spoke for about two hours straight. An overflow crowd sat in chairs and on the floor in the lobby, watching and listening to speakers on television monitors.
Several facilitators with the Thurston County Dispute Resolution Center met with individuals and groups as needed to record their thoughts. Regional television news staff and cameras stayed for most of the evening.
Above: Neil Peck speaks to the Olympia City Council tonight. He lives 100 yards from where Office Ryan Donald shot two men, and heard the shots.
“….I don’t want Olympia to be one of those places where young black men get shot…where people just shrug it off….This needs to be a wake up call for Olympia…for our police…for all of us….I know the investigation is just getting started…but I don’t think we need to wait to say that this is simply the wrong outcome….,” said Peck.
Five speakers later, it was local attorney Jim Johnson who made the audience collectively gasp when he announced that, as a neighbor of Peck’s, he too heard the shots, but neither he nor Peck have been interviewed by the police.
“I’m Jim Johnson. I’m a witness. I live on the corner of Langridge and Cooper Point. My wife heard the first four shots. She woke me up. We checked on our kids. She called the police and she was on the phone with the police when the next three shots rang out. She and I debated about whether it was three or four. I was standing next to her when I heard the next four shots. That, those last four shots, I was able to count. You talk about being open and all this stuff, it’s like, nobody’s even said how many shots were fired. And there are witnesses who know how many shots were fired. Mr. Peck heard them. His wife heard them. I heard them. My wife heard them. My name was in the paper. My wife was on King 5. Mr. Peck spoke at the Thursday night gathering. None of us have been interviewed by the police. None of us have been interviewed by the police. That undermines the credibility of the investigation. I know you guys aren’t in charge, I know you’re not in charge, but somebody hearing this better straighten that out, because if this investigation is going to have any credibility, it has to have credibility in the people, and if there are witnesses around – I live – I had to talk to police officers to leave my house three times that day because they were blocking the road and nobody asked me my name, nobody asked me whether I had heard or seen anything, they’re not asking the witnesses anything….”
Regarding the purchase and use of body cameras, Johnson said he has advised a state agency on the legalities of recordings in public contexts.
“….I know the complexities of the area. This is not hard. This is not expensive. You just need to do it. I looked on Amazon. You can get a body camera for $46.18…and it will be here Thursday….(cheers were heard from the lobby at this point)…You need to buy body cameras, you need to require their use, you need to have discipline in place so that if officers don’t turn them on when they should, they’ll get in trouble….”
Regarding the potential lawsuits that may arise from the shootings, Johnson said, “….This is going to cost the City of Olympia an amazing amount of money. Body cameras are cheap.”
Mayor Stephen Buxbaum said that there will be many more opportunities for the community to express its thoughts about the topics discussed this evening.
Councilmember Nathaniel Jones agreed.
“We don't need to wait to begin the healing. Tonight's comments are part of that...I think we'll be mending for some time....”
One local non-profit, Media Island, will be hosting a meeting on Monday, June 1, 7:00 p.m., at 816 Adams Street SE, Olympia to discuss the formation of a police accountability civilian review board. For more information, call (360) 352-8526 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Above: Local attorney Jim Johnson provides his account to Olympia city council members of what he heard Thursday night during the police shooting of two men. He said he has not yet been interviewed by police.
Little Hollywood will continue to provide more information about this evening as time allows.
For more information about the Olympia Police Department and this case, including an account of the community meeting at Temple Beth Hatfiloh, go to past articles on Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com, and use the search button to type in key words.
Olympia City Council meetings are televised by Thurston Community Television. Go to the City of Olympia website for more information at www.olympiawa.gov.