Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Olympia Police Shooting of Two Men: No Charges for Officer; Men Charged with Assault

Above: Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts provides a brief statement at Olympia City Hall today following Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim's findings about the police officer involved shooting of two men on May 21.

Ad Hoc Committee Set To Next Meet on September 9

By Janine Unsoeld

Today, Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim released his findings about the Olympia police officer involved shooting of two African American men that occurred May 21st.

His decision and a statement today from Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts are both on the City of Olympia website at  

Tunheim’s review of the case in which Olympia police office Ryan Donald shot Bryson Chaplin and Andre Thompson is available at

Tunheim concluded that the officer’s actions were justified and he did not act in bad faith or with malice. 

While I have spent many hours examining and analyzing this evidence, Officer Donald had only seconds prior to each shooting event to make the decision to use deadly force. In fact, the radio traffic demonstrates conclusively that only a matter of seconds passed between Donald's first call about spotting the suspects and the first shots fired call. The remaining events unfolded in just under three minutes....

The two men have been charged with assault.

“There is sufficient admissible evidence to believe that a reasonable fact finder could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Chaplin and Thompson committed the crime of Assault in Second Degree on Officer Donald and of Assault in the 4th degree on the Safeway employee,” says the report's review. 

Charges have been filed and summons’ issued. Arraignment is set for Tuesday, September 22.

Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts held a press conference at Olympia City Hall two hours after the release of Tunheim's report. In his comments, which lasted about five minutes, Roberts said that the Olympia Police Department will now begin an internal review of the incident to determine whether the actions of Officer Donald violated any department policies and procedures.

The shooting review team will be comprised of Deputy Chief Steve Nelson, Lieutenant Aaron Jelcick, Deputy City Attorney Darren Nienaber, Edward Prince, Executive Director for the Commission on African American Affairs, and a designated police guild representative.

The review team will convene as soon as can be scheduled with a goal of completing their work within two weeks. We will immediately release the results of this review once it is concluded,” said Roberts.

Karen Johnson of The Black Alliance of Thurston County handed out a statement at the press conference. It states, in part:

“This is indeed a sad day for those of us who believe in justice for all....Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim’s decision announced today is lawful, yet unjust. It reflects the warped and unfair system design that we have mobilized to change. We are disappointed by the prosecutor’s decision, yet we are not surprised by it.

“The upcoming internal review process led by the Olympia Police Department basically requires law enforcement officers to sit in judgment of each other. This does not provide the public with true police accountability. It is time to change the relevant laws, rules, and civil service procedures governing police conduct. It is time for independent oversight and review of police conduct in cases where excessive use of force may have occurred.”

According to the release, The Black Alliance of Thurston County is committed to building trust and promoting fair and impartial policing in Thurston County.
Chief Roberts referred to the group as one that he has been meeting with over the last few weeks.

“We have had difficult, honest and productive conversation about institutional bias in the criminal justice system, educational systems and other governmental services. These conversations have generated several actionable steps that can be taken to demonstrate OPD’s commitment to bias free policing….” said Roberts.

For more information on The Black Alliance of Thurston County, email

Full Circle United, a community group involved in providing financial assistance to the two men shot and their families, invites the community to speak out about the prosecutor's decision. The group will meet at the corner of State Street and Cherry St in downtown Olympia at 6:00 p.m. Thursday evening. 

This event is solely for amplifying the voices of black people in this community. We are asking that individuals who identify as black or African-American and feel comfortable addressing crowds please come prepared to speak up.

Others are invited and encouraged to come participate, and must understand that their role in supporting us is to LISTEN, says the notice.

Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations

The next meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations will be September 9, 5:00 p.m., with the location still to be announced.

The city is off to a poor start in terms of transparency and bringing the public along in the process of this group.

As of this writing, the city website page for the Ad Hoc Committee still lists the August 26 meeting, its first meeting, and does not yet mention the September 9 meeting, nor is it listed on the city calendar. It is listed on the city’s meeting schedule at

The meeting date was mentioned by Mayor Stephen Buxbaum in his council report at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

The group’s second meeting was actually scheduled for September 2, but postponed. The upcoming meeting is a work session for the committee to decide on a future schedule and community outreach techniques. 

Yesterday, Little Hollywood requested the city email addresses for the committee members, which are not yet listed on the city website. On August 18, Mayor Buxbaum said that individual committee members would have city email addresses.

Today, Kandace Johnson, secretary for the Olympia Police Department, and staff to the committee wrote: 

“….I have had other requests regarding the committee member emails and I am looking into whether I can release that or not and will get back to you.  This is the central inbox for the committee and any information sent here will be distributed to the committee members.”

For now, the email address for public comment and reaching committee members is

For past articles about the Olympia Police Department, the shooting of Bryson Chaplin and Andre Thompson, body cameras, and the Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations, go to Little Hollywood,, and type key words into the search engine.