An Olympia cop shot unarmed men and Washington residents reacted in protest. The two unarmed black men, who are stepbrothers, were suspected of stealing beer from a local grocery store. Hundreds of residents marched on the streets of the state capital to register their thoughts about the police shooting. The Olympia shooting protests have remained peaceful with no signs of rioting as occurred in Ferguson and Baltimore.
The Olympia police officer was reportedly assaulted with a skateboard moments before the Washington shooting on Thursday. Andre Thompson, 24, and Bryson Chaplin, 21, have been identified as the suspects shot by police officer Ryan Donald. Chaplin is reportedly in critical condition and Thompson in stable condition. Both are expected to survive.
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Officer Ryan Donald was one of the Olympia police officers who responded to the beer theft call around 1 a.m. Thursday at a Safeway store. Convenience store workers said two men tried to steal beer and then threw the alcohol at workers when confronted about the theft.
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Police officers decided to split up to search for the men. Officer Ryan Donald reportedly encountered two men with skateboards who fit witnesses’ descriptions and radioed in moments later that shots had been fired.
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“I believe one of them is hit, both of them are running,” Donald said, noting moments later one of the men assaulted him with his skateboard. “I tried to grab his friend. They’re very aggressive, just so you know.”
Officer Ryan Donald then told Olympia police dispatch that he has one man, then both, at gunpoint and asked for help.
“Shots fired! One down,” Donald said as he asked for more backup units.
He then says the second man has been shot.
Chief Roberts said Officer Donald wasn’t injured but an officer “has the right to defend himself.” Donald, 35, has been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation. He has been employed by the Olympia Police Department for three years and has no complaints filed against him. Donald was recently recognized for being proactive during investigations. Before joining the Washington police force, he was an Army police officer.
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Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts told the media that the suspects and the Washington police officer are black, but there is “no indication” to him that race was a factor in the police shooting. Protesters appear to disagree with Chief Roberts; they chanted and carried signs which read “Race is a factor” and “We are grieving.”
“It was terrible. It’s heartbreaking to see two of my babies in the hospital over something stupid,” Crystal Chaplin, the mother of the beer theft suspects injured in the police shooting, told local reporters.
The Washington shooting is currently being investigated by detectives from multiple area agencies. Thurston County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Brad Watkins said that two skateboards were recovered from the Olympia shooting scene. The investigation into the police shooting is expected to take up to six weeks, according to investigators. The detectives have also stated that neither Andre Thompson nor Bryson Chaplin was armed.
The Olympia shooting protestors began their march at a park and then walked approximately one mile to the police headquarters and city hall building. The Washington police shooting protesters also chanted “Black Live Matter” and “No justice, no peace” during their march. The Olympia police tweeted a thank you to the protestors for “keeping the event nonviolent.”
“We are committed to helping our community work through this difficult circumstance and help us understand this tragic event,” Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts said during a Thursday afternoon press conference.
Olympia Mayor Stephen H. Buxbaum urged calm in the community.
“It deeply saddens me that we have two young people in the hospital as a result of an altercation with an officer of the law,” he said. “Let’s come together to support their needs, the officer’s needs, the needs of the families and our community’s needs. Let’s not be reactive.”
What do you think about the Olympia police shooting?