Thursday, May 21, 2015

Olympia Police Shoot Two African American Men

Above: Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts answers questions from the media and the community at a press conference in Olympia City Hall this morning about a police shooting of two African-American men early this morning in Olympia. Mayor Stephen Buxbaum, to his left, also addressed questions.

By Janine Unsoeld
Thurston County Critical Incident Team Investigating
A formal Olympia Police press release, below, was issued shortly after 7:00 a.m.:
“At about 1am this morning, Olympia Police responded to a call from the Westside Safeway store at 3215 Harrison Avenue West.  Store employees reported that two black men had attempted to steal beer and, when confronted by employees, threw the stolen items at them then fled.  As police investigated the matter, an officer found two men matching the suspect descriptions a short distance away.  A few minutes later, the officer notified dispatch that he had been involved in a shooting.  Two men were shot by the officer.  Preliminary reports indicate the men were both shot in the chest.  Both men were transported to St. Peter’s Hospital in critical condition.  Both men are in their twenties and believed to be from the Thurston County area.
The officer, who has been an officer for 3 years, has been put on administrative leave while the incident is investigated, following Olympia Police Department policy.  The Thurston County Critical Incident Team is investigating the shooting.  The Critical Incident Team is composed of detectives from five local agencies.
More details will be released as they are available.  An initial briefing for the media will be at 6am at the Olympia City Hall Council Chambers, 601 4th Ave E.  A second briefing is anticipated at 10am this morning.”
For more information, contact Paul Lower, Public Information Officer, 360.753.8410,

Press Conference
The 10:00 a.m. press conference in Olympia City Hall lasted about 40 minutes. Several regional television stations and reporters were present, as well as many city staff, Councilmember Cheryl Selby, and members of the public.
Mayor Stephen Buxbaum, City Manager Steve Hall, and Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts answered questions.
Mayor Buxbaum, when asked by a reporter why he was present, and whether or not he thinks this incident is going to “blow up,” responded:
“We don’t experience this every day. Unfortunately, what’s happening across the nation makes these kinds of incidents compelling, to meet in an honest, direct, and forthright way. Olympia is a community that cares deeply about social justice and I think that it’s important that anytime there’s a dramatic incident like this – and I call this a dramatic incident – that we stand together as a community and model respectful, thoughtful, inclusive dialogue, so I’m standing here because I want to represent those values and I think our community, I believe can, learn from events like this and become stronger as a result, so I’m here to support the young men that are in the hospital, to support the police officers involved, and I’m here to support the families that are involved, both directly and indirectly, and I’m here to support our community at large. I think that’s the role of the mayor….”
Buxbaum continued:
“I believe Olympia is going to heed this – honoring the values and principals we hold dear as a community – nonviolence, inclusive dialog, and good, solid relationship building. I believe in this community. We have had challenging times, and certainly this is one of those times. Being proactive in these situations, I think is another way of representing our values as community. I think it’s my responsibility to be here. And I do want to emphasize talking with Interfaith Works and members of our clergy that we are committed to open dialog where people can gather and share their perspectives, feelings, show their compassion and stand up for what I think, again, represents our values, is learning from things that are challenging.”
Copies of CDs of the initial 911 call were made available, as well as copies of the Olympia Police Department policies on use of force, equipment and proficiency, and the Washington State Legislature statute, RCW 9A.16.040, on Justifiable homicide or use of deadly force by public officer, peace officer, person aiding, and RCW 9A.16.020 Use of force - when lawful.
More will be added to this story by Little Hollywood as time allows. For past stories on the Olympia Police Department, go to Little Hollywood at and use the search button to type in key words. 

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