An outside panel of five elected state prosecutors is reviewing the Feb. 1 Richland police shooting of Charlie J. Suarez.
It’s the first time a Tri-Cities police shooting is being reviewed under a pilot program created by the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, according to the association’s president.
Under the program, a local prosecutor can request an outside panel of prosecutors to review a police shooting case. WAPA president and Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller is the second prosecutor to ask for a panel.
Richland police officer Christian Jabri shot Suarez twice on the bike path along the bypass highway after Suarez flipped his car near Wellsian Way and allegedly ran from police. Details about why Jabri shot Suarez have not yet been released. Suarez was treated and released without charges.
Prosecutors in Washington determine if lethal force was justified using reports from independent investigation teams. The teams are comprised of police officers from agencies not involved in the shooting being investigated.
The Tri-Cities team is the Regional Special Investigations Unit. Kennewick police Commander Randy Maynard headed the Suarez shooting investigation, which was completed and submitted to Miller at the end of June.
In an email to the Observer, Miller explained that because of legislative proposals and community concerns, WAPA had discussed the outside review program many times in the past two years.
“It is completely discretionary on the part of the involved prosecutor whether or not to use that process,” Miller said.
Meyer confirmed the program is optional, adding that it represents an informal power of law enforcement and prosecutors.
“Prosecutors already have the ability to bounce off ideas and opinions with each other,” Meyer told the Observer.
Meyer said that he would serve on the panel along with elected prosecutors from Thurston, Spokane, Clark, and Pend Oreille counties.
Meyer said that his goal was to have an odd number on the panels, and not restrict them to elected prosecutors.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law this year that created an Office of Independent Investigation, a state-level agency that can select cases to investigate.
A similar bill that would have created an Office of Independent Prosecution did not pass in the Legislature.
Meyer said the program will be reviewed as it progresses.