Prosecutors find fatal police shooting of Kevin Peterson, Jr., ‘justified and lawful’

Prosecutors in Washington State determined Monday that the officers involved in the fatal shooting of Kevin Peterson Jr. in October were acting within the law. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI

Aug. 17 (UPI) — Prosecutors investigating October’s fatal police shooting of Kevin Peterson, Jr., during an undercover drug operation in Washington State have concluded the officers involved were acting within the law and will not be charged.

Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mary Robnett was appointed in December by Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik to review the investigation of Peterson’s death and determine if charges should be filed against any of the three involved officers.

On Monday, her 16-page legal analysis behind her reasoning to not charge the officers was published, stating that their use of force on the night of Oct. 29 was “justified and lawful.”

“It is tragic that Mr. Peterson lost his life,” she wrote in the report addressed to Golik. “But he made the regrettable decision to distribute drugs and in the course of felony drug dealing, threaten to shoot the police.”

Peterson was killed in late October in an undercover drug sting after an informant accused the 21-year-old Black man of selling prescription drugs.

According to the authorities, the informant arranged to meet Peterson at a Hazel Dell Quality Inn parking lot, and when he arrived in a Mercedes Benz sedan, officers attempted to arrest him.

Peterson then fled the vehicle on foot with a loaded .40 caliber Glock 23 handgun and was intercepted by officers at a nearby bank who discharged their service weapons more than 30 times, striking Peterson with four bullets. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

His death, occurring after a string of high-profile police-involved killings of Black men, including that of George Floyd on Memorial Day, sparked protests and counter-protests in Vancouver.

In her analysis behind not charging the officers on Monday, Robnett said Peterson took the gun with him as he fled his vehicle, retrieved it after it was dropped despite police orders for him to leave it where it was and pointed it at the containment officers who intercepted him at the bank.

“There was no legal requirement for the officers to allow Mr. Peterson to fire first before defending themselves. They did not have to wait for him to pull the trigger,” she wrote, explaining that under the applicable law similarly situated reasonable police officers would have “uniformly” used deadly force under the same circumstances.

“For these reasons, we have determined that the use of deadly force by the officers in this incident was justified and lawful,” she concluded.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office said they accepted the report and “appreciate the hard work” that went into it.

“Although some may have expected or wished for a different outcome, we have placed our trust in the independent investigation protocols as put in place by the state of Washington,” Undersheriff John Chapman said in a statement reported by Clark County Today.

Chapman added that the office has been notified of an intent to file a lawsuit over the shooting, but did not comment further.

Peterson’s family rejected the decision, saying in a statement reported by Oregon Public Radio that they are “shocked” no charges would be filed.

“This is unfair and unsafe for everyone in the community,” his family said.


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