Black men shot by white patrolman in Washington state face assault charges

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 22, 2015 7:04 AM

By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Two unarmed black men shot by a white police officer pursuing them over a reported theft attempt in Washington state in May, leaving one paralyzed, are to be arraigned on Tuesday on felony assault charges, a local prosecutor said.

Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin, brothers aged 24 and 21, will enter pleas at a hearing in Thurston County set for Tuesday morning, the local prosecutor's office said.

The shooting in Olympia, Washington state's capital with about 48,000 residents, only about 2 percent of whom are black, triggered street demonstrations.

It followed a series of police killings of unarmed black men across the nation that have put law enforcement agencies under scrutiny over their use of force, particularly against minorities.

Olympia Police Officer Ryan Donald, a three-year department veteran, told investigators that Thompson and Chaplin had no weapons during the May 21 incident.

But he said Thompson tried to pull him to the ground while Chaplin raised his skateboard above his head "as if to strike him," according to a probable cause statement.

Donald was never hit with the skateboard, the prosecuting attorney's spokeswoman said. He was cleared of wrongdoing earlier this month.

Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim and David Beninger, a lawyer for the men, declined to comment.

The Olympia Police Department said it would conduct an internal review to determine whether Donald's actions violated any department policies, Chief Ronnie Roberts said.

Relating Donald's account of the incident, Roberts said the policeman and other officers responded to a call from a supermarket where employees reported two men trying to steal beer had thrown a case at a clerk and then run.

During the subsequent confrontation, Donald shot Thompson in the abdomen and Chaplin in the chest, neck, back and arm. Chaplin is paralyzed from the waist down, local media reported.

Prosecutors have charged Chaplin with two counts of felony assault against Donald with a deadly weapon and misdemeanor assault against the store clerk. Thompson is charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon against Donald.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Eric Beech)