Note: we are republishing this story amid nationwide discussion regarding police accountability and the relationship between police officers and their communities.
A panel of five Washington state prosecutors concluded that the fatal police shooting that left Jenoah Donald dead during a traffic stop was justified, and the deputy will not be facing any criminal charges.
“We all agreed on the conclusion…that no criminal charges should be filed,” Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan said, with the prosecutors stating that Clark County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Deputy Sean Boyle acted “in good faith.”
“Donald’s refusal to exit the vehicle quickly escalated and Deputy Boyle, unable to reach his Taser, drew his weapon and shot Mr. Donald to protect himself and other deputies,” they said.
The February 4, 7:37 p.m. incident occurred when deputies responded to the 6500-block of Northwest Jordan Way after a call came in about two suspicious vehicles circling the block.
The 911 caller had “expressed frustration with the ‘drug house’ and ‘constant barrage of issues affecting the neighborhood.’”
Deputy Boyle saw a bronze Mercedes Benz with Oregon license plates and a defective taillight on 68th Street and stopped the car.
The driver, who was later identified as 30-year-old Donald, gave the deputy his Washington identification card but did not have proof of registration or insurance.
The affidavit for a search warrant stated that Donald told Deputy Boyle that his license had been suspended.
Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Holly Troupe responded to the scene and stood outside Donald’s passenger door to cover Deputy Boyle as he returned to his vehicle.
Speaking to investigators, Deputy Troupe stated that there were some suspicious items inside the car, including a “ball-handled” object with a 3- to 4-inch sharpened “stake” on the end that was near the center console.
Deputy Troupe stated that she ordered Donald multiple times to keep his hands visible, but he ignored her and reached behind his back to pull out a cell phone and pliers, and Deputy Boyle saw the situation escalating just as Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Agar arrived on the scene.
According to investigators, Deputy Boyle walked back to the Mercedes, opened the car door, and ordered Donald to step out of the car. Upon his refusal to comply, Deputy Boyle and Deputy Troupe tried to pull him out of the car.
He refused to comply even they threatened him with a police dog.
“Deputy Boyle, as a ruse, informed Jenoah Donald that he would send his K-9 to bite Jenoah Donald if he did not stop resisting,” the affidavit for the search warrant stated. “This did not gain compliance and Jenoah Donald continued to struggle with Deputy Boyle and Troupe.”
“Deputy Troupe attempted to gain ‘pain compliance,’” by applying finger pressure under Donald’s jaw, but this did not seem to have an effect on Donald.
Deputy Boyle told investigators that he felt Donald pull on his outer ballistic vest before he was yanked into the car. He ordered Donald to let him go and punched him in the nose.
Donald only asked, “really?” according to the affidavit.
The deputies stated that they heard Donald start the car’s engine during the struggle, with Deputy Boyle stating that he kept trying to get free as the deputies heard Donald rev the engine and “wheels spinning.”
“Deputy Boyle felt the vehicle begin to move forward, and fearing he was going to be killed, he drew his firearm (Deputy Boyle is left-handed) and gave Mr. Donald a verbal warning to stop or he would be shot,” the investigators synopsis read.
Deputy Boyle fired two shots and one struck Donald.
Deputy Boyle then pushed himself out of the moving vehicle and the car continued on until it hit a fence in a neighboring yard.
The three deputies rushed to the vehicle and pulled Donald out of it to render first aid.
He was rushed to the hospital where he died a week later when his family removed him from life support.
“The officer should be arrested and held accountable,” attorney Lara Herrmann, who is representing Donald’s family, told Oregon Public Broadcasting shortly after the shooting.
Mark Lindquist, another attorney for the family, called the incident “an unfortunate cautionary tale about what happens when officers do not practice de-escalation. Deadly force should be a last resort. Legally and morally. There were three tactically trained officers on the scene in full gear. They have tasers, pepper spray, and other non-lethal weapons. There was no good reason to shoot Jenoah in the head.”
Sue Zawacky, Donald’s mother, said in a statement that the panel of prosecutors let her family down.
She demanded that Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson open an investigation into the incident, but his office stated that he lacked jurisdiction to intervene.
“We hope the officers will resign for the good of the community because they don’t have the patience and skills for the job,” Zawacky said.
Lindquist stated that “accountability and justice” would be achieved as a result of the $17 million wrongful death lawsuit he is filing against Clark County on Donald’s family’s behalf.
“What’s clear is the officers unnecessarily escalated a petty traffic stop into a fatal shooting,” he said.
Sources: The Police Tribune