A Washington state police officer will not face criminal charges after shooting two unarmed black men suspected of trying to steal beer from a supermarket, a prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday.
Officer Ryan Donald, a three-year veteran of the police department in the state capital Olympia, told investigators the men had no weapons during the May incident.
But one of them tried to pull him to the ground while the other raised his skateboard above his head “as if to strike him” and that he issued a verbal warning before opening fire, the police department said.
No charges will be brought against Donald because his use of force was justified, said Anne Larsen, a spokeswoman for the Thurston County prosecuting attorney said.
“The officer acted in good faith and without malice,” Larsen said.
The Olympia Police Department will conduct an internal review to determine whether Donald’s actions violated any department policies, police chief Ronnie Roberts said in a statement.
The shooting in the city of 48,000 people, only about 2 percent of whom are black, triggered street demonstrations.
It followed a series of fatal incidents across the nation that have put law enforcement agencies under scrutiny over their use of force, particularly against young black men and other minorities.
Relating Donald’s account of the incident, Roberts said the policeman, who is white, 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 with police, Donald shot Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin, two brothers aged 24 and 21. Thompson was shot in the abdomen and Chaplin in the chest, neck, back, and arm. Chaplin is paralyzed from the waist down, local media reported.
Thompson told investigators he did not use a skateboard to defend himself and could not remember whether his brother did so.
Larsen, the prosecutor’s spokeswoman, said the two suspects did not make any statements and were to be arraigned on assault charges later this month.
A lawyer for Chaplin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Peter Cooney, Dan Whitcomb and Lisa Lambert)