Washington deputies fired 34 rounds in the fatal shooting of an armed suspect that sparked violent protests last month — so many that they mistakenly thought he was firing back at them, according to reports.
An investigation showed three Clark County deputies shot 21-year-old Kevin Peterson Jr. when he fled a drug-dealing sting in Hazel Dell on Oct. 29, aiming a semi-automatic handgun at them, according to The Columbian.
They were aware of social media posts he made that “indicated violence toward law enforcement” and deemed him “an active threat to the public,” the investigators said while releasing an 11-minute video from the fatal arrest.
“The deputies told investigators Peterson Jr. had aimed his firearm at them while multiple gunshots were going off around them,” chief investigator Troy Brightbill wrote, according to The Oregonian.
“They believed Peterson Jr. had fired or had already shot at them,” he wrote in the update, of the suspect who in fact did not fire.
Peterson Jr.’s family have claimed he was likely aiming a phone at the officers, not a gun, and suggest that he was shot as he ran away. Officials have not said if any of the four shots that hit him were in his back.
“The sheriff and others lied when they said Kevin shot at officers,” Peterson’s father, Kevin Peterson Sr., said in a written statement.
“Kevin’s back was toward the officers, but they shot him anyway. They chased him down, trapped him, and killed him.”
A lawyer representing the family, Lara Herrmann, called for an apology for the initial public statements that Peterson Jr. had shot at the officers.
“When law enforcement makes a false accusation, as they did in the shooting of Kevin, it’s heartbreaking for the family,” Hermann said in a statement to both papers.
Other lawyers for the family also challenged the suggestion that he had posed a lethal threat. “Nobody should die over a fistful of Xanax,” Mark Lindquist, another lawyer for the family, told The Columbian. Detectives were trying to arrest him for the sale of 50 Xanax pills.
The investigation is being sent to Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office to be reviewed, the reports said.