Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller supports body cameras for police

Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller wrote last summer that he supported body cameras for police. The opinion, part of a seven-page letter about his choice to not charge Kennewick police in the shooting of Gordon Whitaker, received little attention.

“For reviewing cases involving deadly force by police officers, the use of body cameras would be beneficial not only for the integrity of the investigation but also for the decedent’s family and involved police officers,” Miller wrote in the Aug. 20 letter.

The Pasco Police Department is the only agency in the Tri-Cities to use body and dashboard cameras. The department began using the cameras in 2019.

Miller also wrote about compliance problems with the new state police investigation law, WAC 139-12, that went into effect on Jan. 5, 2020. Miller mentioned the contribution of newly appointed community representatives during the Whitaker investigation. 

Read the letter here:

Randy’s Rundown: Richland City Council Feb. 23 Workshop Explained

This meeting will not be on television, nor will it be taped.  You can join the party at 6:00 p.m. by going to the agenda and clicking on Zoom.

  1. Police Chief John Bruce will explain the process for investigating the recent Richland police shooting.  To get a head start on this discussion read WAC 139-12, the new state law governing the police investing police investigations.
  • City Attorney Heather Kintzley and Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky will discuss the use of wheeled all terrain vehicles on city streets.  An all-terrain vehicle ( ATV ), also known as a quad, quad bike, three-wheeler, four-track, four-wheeler or quadricycle as defined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a vehicle that travels on low-pressure tires, with a seat that is straddled by the operator, along with handlebars. It is NOT a snowmobile or a golf cart (darn). Pg. 3-9
  • Director of Parks and Public Facilities Joe Schiessl will discuss speed limits on city shared-use paths.  Electric bicycles and scooters and scooter sharing programs have inspired this discussion Pg. 9

On police shootings, local prosecutors united in their conclusions but divided in their process

Feb.21,2021

Benton and Franklin county prosecutors have never concluded that a police officer needed to face charges over a shooting. 

That doesn’t mean they see such shootings the same way, or even process them. 

Lately, Benton’s Andy Miller and Franklin’s Shawn Sant have taken very different paths when considering these cases. 

Two Black men shot and killed by police in the past couple years demonstrate some of the differences.

Miller closed the 2020 shooting of Gordon Whitaker a short time after the Regional Special Investigative Unit (SIU) completed its report. 

On the other hand, Sant hasn’t moved on the 2019 shooting of Dante Jones. Sant got SIU’s report of that shooting nine months ago.

Jones case

The unarmed Jones was shot by Franklin County sheriff’s deputy Cody Quantrell on November 18, 2019 after an on-again, off-again car chase through rural Franklin County.

Sant received the SIU report in May 2020 and the Observer obtained it a couple of weeks later.  In response to a question about the status of the case, Sant wrote in a June 23 email to The Observer:

“I am still awaiting evidence to be evaluated and returned from the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory. I will not be able to complete my findings until I have ALL available evidence for review and consideration. These are serious cases of public importance. Every time a life is lost, we will look closely at those cases, especially when law enforcement officers use deadly force. I continue to review this case and anticipate completion only after all reports and any additional follow up information we may request, is provided.”

On July 23, 2020, more evidence did become available. 

The Observer obtained Police Chief Curt Ruggles May 14, 2018 “counseling” memo regarding Quantrell’s record as a police officer in Toppenish, Washington. In the memo, Ruggles criticized Quantrell for some of the same actions that he took the night he shot Jones, including being overly aggressive during car chases. 

The report was not included in the SIU report, and Sant did not indicate whether he had obtained it. Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond hired Quantrell later in 2018.

On September 23, 2020, Sant wrote that he was still talking to relatives and friends of Jones.

Whitaker Case

In contrast to Sant’s long deliberation, Miller announced his decision on Whitaker’s February 9, 2020 shooting a few weeks after receiving the SIU report. On August 20, 2020, in a seven-page letter, he explained why he had not charged any of the police involved.

At that time, Miller released a 420-page first installment of the 2,888-page report. The Observer obtained the report in five installments received between September 2020 and November 2020.

Only the investigation team and the prosecutor had seen the evidence when Miller cleared the officers. 

SIU has two Benton County cases that have not been completed. 

One involves a man who died in a police car on December 15, 2020 and the other, the wounding of a man on a pedestrian path in Richland on February 1, 2021.

Investigators Frustrated

Kennewick Police Commander Randy Maynard, who leads the SIU,, expressed concern about how long it was taking Franklin County to close some cases. 

He explained that investigators spend months carefully going over all aspects of a case and writing a report. He said the lack of closure frustrates everybody involved.

Franklin County open cases

Sant has five unresolved cases; two are older than the Jones case. 

  • Werner Anderson died in the back of an ambulance while in Pasco Police custody on August 10, 2018. Sant received the investigation report around August 28, 2019.
  • December 14, 2019, a man was shot and killed December 14, 2019, after stabbing two Pasco Police officers. Sant received that report about March 28, 2020.

Two unresolved cases happened after the Jones case.

  • A man died in a gunfight with Pasco police on May 17, 2020. The SIU submitted their report on that case September 21, 2020.
  • On July 30, 2020, a man sitting next to a small child in the back of a car was shot by police after allegedly pulling a gun. The SIU for that case was submitted on November 13, 2020. 

Deadline for closure

The Observer contacted Sant on February 4, 2021 and asked for an update on the five open cases. He did not respond Miller explained to The Observer, “I don’t know that there is a time requirement imposed by law for prosecutors to make a decision. I try to make decisions in a timely manner while also making sure that the decedent’s family has plenty of time and opportunity to provide input.”

Richland shooting witness wonders if police consider bystanders

Police marks on the trail where Charles Suarez was shot by Richland Police. Photo by Andrea Cameron

When Andrea Cameron went for an evening run on Feb.1, she didn’t expect to find herself within yards of a police shooting. Just a short time after she reached Duportail Road running north, Richland Police Officer Christian Jabri shot Charles Suarez on the trail ahead of her..

 “Do police consider the safety of others?” Cameron asked. “I was on a very well-used pedestrian trail. It’s hard to stop thinking about it. In just a few seconds I could have been in the line of fire.”

Cameron described running at around 7 p.m. with headphones and a headlight to see her path in the dark. When she saw a police car with lights flashing, she realized people were running just ahead of her.  She said, “I panicked and froze when I realized that it was some kind of chase.”

Cameron said that she had no idea how many shots were fired, probably because of her headphones.

She stayed at the scene as more and more police cars came. When she was sure it was safe to leave, she went home.

Cameron learned from newspaper accounts the next day that Suarez had wrecked his car, left the scene, and run from police.  She said, “Unless he pulled a gun or killed somebody, I can’t imagine why the police would shoot at him on a pedestrian trail adjacent to a residential neighborhood.”

She responded to the request for witnesses to contact police that was at the end of the newspaper story.

Police Interview

She told the police interviewer, Detective Ryan Sauve of the Washington State Patrol, she was shocked at how easily she inadvertently ran into danger.

He responded, “You didn’t match the description.”

She said she wondered, “Did the police presence increase my safety that night or put me more at risk?”

She added that in the future she would leave her headphones at home when she runs.

Cameron recalls that he asked if she would feel threatened seeing someone running toward her on the path. She replied, “I see others running and walking on the path with me regularly.”

The Tri-City Herald reported that after treatment at a hospital, Suarez was released without charges.

Independent team will investigate

Kennewick Commander Randy Maynard is the incident commander for the Independent Investigation Team made up of local officers who are not connected to the involved agency. The team will investigate the shooting and provide their report to County Prosecutor Andy Miller and the Richland Police Department.  

Miller will decide whether there is a basis for filing charges against the police officers involved. Based on the investigations that were completed in 2020, the process could take three to six months.

A new police reform law that went into effect January 5, 2020 also requires two community representatives. The police chiefs picked the representatives for their jurisdictions. In a telephone conversation that The Observer had with Maynard, he declined to say which community representatives had been chosen.

Numbers on the pavement

Cameron returned to the path the day after the shooting. She saw nine numbered marks on the pavement in two clusters, one on each path. While she wasn’t sure what the marks meant, she did know that one cluster with numbers 7, 8 and 9 was exactly where she would have been had she not frozen on the side of the road when she did.

Handpicked community representatives on police investigations have no power. Does their presence make any difference?

Since January 5, 2020, when a new police reform law went into effect in Washington, five community representatives have served on Tri-City police investigation teams. Each was handpicked by the chief of the involved agency.

The state Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) that provided the rules for the law directs police independent investigation teams (IIT) to be “completely independent of any involved agency.”

The relationships between police chiefs and their appointed community reps  might jeopardize the integrity of the investigations. But with poorly described responsibilities and no training, it’s difficult to see what difference that makes.

The CJTC’s factsheet says community representatives will participate in the selection of police investigators, be present at briefings, have access to the completed investigation files, and be provided copies of news releases and communications prior to release. Aside from the briefings, which are not defined, this only puts representatives one step ahead of the public in receiving information.

Leo Perales became the first person picked to be a community representative on an investigation. He was added to the IIT for the February 9, 2020 shooting death of Gordon Whitaker by Kennewick police. Perales  said that during the Whitaker case, “I didn’t know what we were there for.” He explained that he wondered how much authority he had.

The factsheet instructs law enforcement in the state to “solicit” at least two non-law enforcement community representatives from the death’s impacted community. Franklin County law enforcement agencies only choose two for the entire county.  Walla Walla County did the same thing, but chose three. Only Benton County has two from each of the law enforcement agencies within its borders. 

The Observer obtained the police investigation report for the Whitaker case that included emails about the selection of the representatives. According to Kennewick Police Commander Trevor White, “We tried to hastily come into compliance with the new law.”

The “solicit” part seems to have been a sticking point with Kennewick Police Chief Hohenberg and Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller.

In a March 2 email to Hohenberg, Miller says “You can interpret ‘solicit’ in different ways and that could include soliciting specific people to see if they would be interested. And that process could arguably be transparent as required by the rule.”

Miller suggested in a follow-up email that Benton County select two to four people, then join the other two counties in the investigation unit – Franklin and Walla Walla — in creating a roster of names.

Following that advice, area law enforcement agencies created a list of 13 names. The Observer spoke to 6 of them.

Of the 13, the two chosen by Pasco Police Chief Ken Roske have been serving simultaneously on two investigations of Pasco police. Two of the three representatives chosen by the Kennewick Police Chief have served on two investigations of Kennewick police.

Perales received an email on Feb. 11 from Hohenberg asking him to serve on the Whitaker case. Perales said that he had known the chief since he took a class from him years ago.

Hohenberg also suggested Othene Bell Wade for the Whitaker case. He then put her and Perales on the roster.

Chelsan Simpson had attended the Richland Police Department Citizen Academy and had met the Police Chief John Bruce there. A representative from the department asked if he would be willing to volunteer.

Simpson said that when he agreed to serve, he was told that he could be asked to be on an investigation in another jurisdiction. No one else indicated that they received that information.

Prosser had a slightly different process. Police Chief Pat McCullough advertised that he was looking for volunteers. People who responded received a questionnaire that they completed and returned. He then picked two representatives.

Brandi Thornbrugh of Prosser responded to McCullough because she explained, “Volunteering was one way to be involved in the community.”

Other jurisdictions have taken a similar approach. Pierce County, the Washington State Patrol, and the cities of Yelm and Shoreline have advertised for volunteers to apply to be non-law enforcement community representatives.

The appointees that The Observer spoke with lamented that they had had no training. An in-person training session planned for November by the police departments was cancelled due to COVID restrictions.

Perales believes that to protect the independence of the representatives, someone other than the chiefs — possibly the city councils — should pick appointees. He also questioned whether the police departments should be conducting the training.

Representatives sign a confidentiality agreement that’s required, but not described, by the CTJC. The document outlines penalties if representatives disclose confidential information before the “prosecutor of jurisdiction either declines to file charges or the criminal case is concluded.” They can be prosecuted for obstructing a law enforcement officer, perjury, or violation of the Criminal Records Privacy Act.

Understandably, this made Hector Cruz hesitant about answering any of The Observer’s questions because he is currently volunteering for two investigations in Pasco. All he would say was that he had been chosen to be a representative by the Pasco Police Department because he had worked with the department in the past.

Two cases that occurred before the new law went into effect have not been closed by Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant. Werner Anderson died August 10, 2018  in the back of an ambulance while in Pasco police custody. A Franklin County deputy shot Dante Jones on a rural Franklin County road on November 18, 2019. If community representatives had been on those cases, they would have been unable to talk about them for months, even years. 

Washington lawmakers will be considering police reform measures during the 2021 legislative session.

Police shooting reports include hundreds of Facebook posts

After a police shooting, detectives spend several weeks taking screenshots of Facebook posts documenting people’s reactions to the event.  The sources include the Facebook pages of the police departments, the Tri-City Herald, and local television and radio stations.

Witnesses

According to Lt. Drew Florence, Richland Police Department crime scene supervisor, detectives read the posts looking for witnesses and other people who might have information important to the investigation.

“Some people are comfortable talking on Facebook but not to police,” Florence said.

According to Florence, the Facebook posts on public sites can be copied without a legal process to obtain them.

Special Investigative Unit

Officers from police departments in the area that are not involved in the case compose a Special Investigative Unit (SIU). The SIU investigates officer-involved incidents that result in death or serious injury and write a report.

The 1895-page SIU report on the Nov. 18, 2019, shooting of Dante Redmond Jones by Franklin County Sheriff Deputy Cody Quantrell, includes almost 200 pages of Facebook posts (pg. 722-920).

The 2,888-page report on the Feb. 9, 2020, shooting of Gordon Whitaker has 100 pages of Facebook posts. (page. 528-628 of the fourth installment).

Categories

The SIU reports list some posts by categories: Present During Event, Activity Leading up to Event, Unknown Presence, Knows Suspect, Unknown Category. Each comment under the categories includes the media outlet where the post appeared.

The Jones report differs from the Whitaker report in that after the category listing, it provides posts from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office as well as posts from seven media outlets. The Whitaker Report only provides the posts from the Kennewick Police Department, possibly accounting for the difference in the number of pages of posts, 200 in the Jones report but only 100 in the Whitaker report.

Commenters Surprised

Via a Facebook personal message, the Observer contacted people who had posted to ask if they knew that the SIU reports included their comments.  A few responded.

Not surprisingly posts from former Franklin County Deputy Jereme James Ekiert defended both Sheriff Jim Raymond and the deputies involved in the Jones shooting. His comments appeared on the KEPR Action News Report. 

When one person asked where the body camera pictures were, Ekiert responded, “Being reviewed by investigators. This isn’t a 60 minute episode of blue bloods.”

The Franklin County Sheriff’s deputies do not have body cameras or dashboard cameras. In the Tri-Cities only the Pasco Police Department uses camera equipment.

Melissa Ruelas expressed surprise that her comments including, “It’s suspicious to me,” appeared on the KEPR Facebook page. Ruelas wrote to the Observer that her husband knew Jones well.

When Ruelas learned that Prosecutor Shawn Sant had not made public a decision as to whether he considered the shooting justified, Ruelas responded, “I thought this case was swept under the rug a long time ago.”

Sarese Kirk who commented on the Gordon Whitaker shooting said she was surprised her posts were part of the record.  She noted, “I didn’t think that that was necessary especially when I spoke out of anger and emotion….”

 She knew Whitaker and her posts are listed under the “Knows Suspect” category for a comment on the Kennewick Police Department Facebook page as well as “unknown Category” for another post on the KEPR Facebook page.

Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller declared in August that no charges would be filed in the Whitaker case because the officer who killed Whitaker, had a “good faith belief” that he was preventing death or injury to another officer.

After the Whitaker shooting, Francesca Maier posted on the Kennewick Police Department page: “What was the probable cause for contacting the men?”

When asked if she knew her comment would become a part of the police report, she said, No, I didn’t know that, but I don’t believe we have a right to privacy when posting on a public website, particularly not on the page of a public agency.”

Richland Police Chief asks Council for Three More Officers, Says Eighty Percent of Calls have a Mental Health Aspect

September 22, 2020

At the Sept 8 budget meeting, Richland Police Chief John Bruce told the Richland City Council that he would like to add three more officers to his department.  The city currently budgets for 65.

But Mayor Ryan Lukson had another question — “Why wouldn’t you add more mental health training?” 

The concern stemmed from another fact Bruce laid out. Eighty percent of calls to Richland police involve a mental health aspect, the chief said.

Bruce told the council that the department already provides de-escalation and mental health training for its officers. 

What the department needs, he said, are more bodies. Having more officers per shift means more time to respond to an incident, knowing backup is close by.

“Officers need time to just slow down,” Bruce said. “Officers who rush in may have a deadly force incident. Wait for your back up. Survey the scene. Re-evaluate the decision.”

Bruce also said that he would like officers to be able to allocate 40 percent of their time in the community visiting businesses, schools and Parent Teacher Associations.

The department has mental health crisis workers who ride along with officers, Bruce said. Lourdes Outpatient Services has a grant for more than $1 million that provides these professionals to Tri-Cities police departments.

The Observer talked to Richland Police Capt. Chris Lee and Director of Lourdes’ Outpatient Services Cameron Fordmeir, who administers the grant.

Lee said each jurisdiction has a mobile outreach team that includes a mental outreach professional called a “designated crisis responder.” That person decides whether someone poses enough of danger to themselves or others that they require 72-hour detention for drug abuse or psychiatric evaluation.

The team may also include a mental outreach counselor who provides contacts for follow-up support services or counseling, and peer specialists who work behind the scenes to make sure the paperwork doesn’t fall between the cracks.

“Sometimes the Richland police drive their team member to other jurisdictions which need them,” Lee said. 

Fordmeir added that the program currently has six designated crisis responders, two mental outreach counselors and three peer specialists to cover all of Benton and Franklin counties.

“Since the program began in 2018, the teams have had 4,163 contacts and 87 psychiatric hospitalizations,” Fordmeir said.

The current grant expires June 2021. Fordmeir plans to reapply for the grant as well as look for funding from the cities and other sources so that the program can continue.

What Killed Werner Anderson While He was in Pasco Police Custody?

Werner Anderson had a heart attack and died while in Pasco Police custody moments after medics injected Anderson with the sedative ketamine while one police officer knelt on his back and another held his feet. 

The Observer submitted a public records request and obtained the 537-page Special Investigative Unit report, which Franklin County prosecutor Shawn Sant received over a year ago, on August 28, 2019. 

In addition, the Observer obtained the 2019 Schedule Drug Report from the Pasco Fire Department about the use of ketamine by medics. The Observer also had telephone conversations with Dr. Kevin Hodges, medical program director of Benton-Franklin Counties and Franklin County Coroner Curtis McGary.

On August 10, 2018, Pasco Police Officer Andrew Corral1 responded to a call from the area near Chinese Gardens Restaurant in Pasco. Neighbors reported that a man was knocking on doors, yelling and “acting like he was on drugs.”

In a statement, Corral reported that “the male was cooperative, gave his name as Werner Anderson, and gave his date of birth.”

Corral said that Warner refused to go voluntarily to Lourdes Hospital or detox and instead asked to be taken to the men’s shelter at the Tri-City Union Gospel Mission.

Minutes after officers dropped Warner off at the shelter, though, Ruben Ochoa, director of the men’s shelter, called police to report that “he saw a man flopping on the ground like a fish” and “slapping the ground really hard with his hand.” He reported that Anderson had also swung at one person and hit a second person with a grazing blow.

When Officer Adam Wright2 and Officer Alexander Busch and Corral responded to the call, they handcuffed Anderson and helped him into the shade. An ambulance arrived with Medic James McGrath and Busch and Wright walked Anderson to it. Both Ochoa and Mission Director Debra Biondolillo described Anderson as walking with assistance.

According to Busch, when Anderson sat in the medic’s chair, Busch said to him, “Hey, you know, you can’t sit there. You gotta sit on the stretcher. So he got up from there. I helped guide him up and he stepped between the, uh, bench area and the stretcher.”

To extricate Anderson, the stretcher was removed from the ambulance. Busch and Wright attempted to get Anderson to his feet, but he resisted. After a struggle, Busch held Anderson’s feet while Wright, according to his statement, knelt on “his back area, his shoulders.”

Officer James B. Vaugh, who arrived about the time of the struggle in the ambulance, said in a statement, “Officer Wright was in the ambulance and had a knee on the subject holding him down. The subject was handcuffed, face down, and screaming at the top of his lungs.”

Dr. Lawrence Heiskell, an emergency physician and a veteran reserve police officer with the Palm Springs (California) Police Department, writing in “Police Magazine,” describes the dangers of placing body weight on detainees in a prone position.

According to McGrath “the decision was made to apply chemical restraints.”  In his statement Michael Maier of the Pasco Fire Department also said, “It was determined that ketamine would be used.” Maier stated that he drew up the sedative and handed it to McGrath.

Moments after McGrath injected 250 milligrams (mg) of ketamine into Anderson’s shoulder, Anderson’s heart stopped. McGrath began CPR and other rescue methods and the ambulance left for Kadlec, the closest hospital with a Level 1 cardiac unit. Anderson was declared dead at Kadlec. 

Recently the dangers of ketamine as well as the practice of kneeling on the backs of detainees has received new scrutiny.

A young Black man died in Aurora, Colorado in 2019 after being held in a chokehold and then injected with a large dose of ketamine. Colorado and Minnesota have both reported sharp increases in the use of the drug by medics despite medical warnings about side-effects.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, injected ketamine can cause “difficult or troubled breathing” and “fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat.”

The American Society of Anesthesiologists released a statement on July 15, 2020,  that said it “firmly opposes the use of ketamine or any other sedative/hypnotic agent to chemically incapacitate someone for a law enforcement purpose and not for a legitimate medical reason.

The Observer spoke by telephone with Dr. Kevin Hodges, medical program director of Benton-Franklin Counties. When asked who “determines” when to use ketamine, Hodges said, “It is the sole responsibility of the medic as to when to use drugs in an emergency.” 

Hodges added, “Ketamine is the safest, most efficient drug available for sedation of agitated patients.”

In a document signed by Hodges on June 1, 2016 and included in the SIU report, “Protocol Title: Behavioral Emergencies” there is another option for “dangerous agitation/combativeness” — “4-point soft restraints.”

When the medics chose to use ketamine, at least four people from the Pasco Fire Department were at the scene: medics Maier and McGrath; ambulance driver, Captain Seth Rhoer; and ride along Andrew Kimball.  Four Pasco police officers were also there: Wright, Busch, Corral and Vaugh.

Hodges pointed out that “Ketamine is primarily used by medics for pain relief.”

In Pasco, the 2019 Schedule Drug Report for Ketamine lists 34 times that medics used primarily small amounts, around 15 mg for pain.  On 23 other occasions, larger doses of up to 200 mg to 500 mg were injected for conditions that included alcohol abuse, psychiatric disorders and altered mental status.

According to the toxicology report in the SIU report, in addition to the ketamine, Anderson had THC, amphetamine and methamphetamine in his blood.  

In a telephone conversation with the Franklin County Coroner Curtis McGary, the Observer learned that the coroner’s office listed “drug overdose” as the cause of death.

After over a year with the SIU report, Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant has yet to announce whether any charges will be brought in the case.

1 Another SIU investigation was created on July 30, 2020 to investigate Corral after he shot Santiago Ayala-Pineda for allegedly refusing to drop a handgun.

2Wright was one of the three Pasco police officers who shot rock thrower Antonio Zambrano-Montes in 2015.

Richland City Councilmember Bob Thompson Pleads Guilty to Reckless Driving

After months of hearings and conferences regarding his charge of driving under the influence, Richland City Councilmember Bob Thompson pleaded guilty on July 21, 2020 to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

Washington State Patrolman James Stairet stopped Thompson for speeding at midnight on June 29, 2019, when Thompson was Richland’s mayor. Thompson’s eyes were “watery and bloodshot,” and Thompson held the driver’s side door for balance as he got out of his car, Stairet wrote in his report of the stop. Thompson declined to take a field sobriety test and said he wouldn’t complete a breath test, wrote Stairet, who then arrested Thompson.

Thompson, a lawyer, regularly defends clients who have been charged with DUI.

In a telephone conversation, Thompson likened his case to others. “As many as 75% of first offenders accept a plea agreement,” he said.

Thompson said he will lose his license for 30 days. “Probably September,” he said. 

But he’s not required to have an ignition interlock device, and a reckless driving conviction won’t prevent him from travelling to Canada, where he sometimes attends conferences to represent the city’s support for the Hanford cleanup.

According to the court docket, Thompson paid a $1,233.97 fine and completed both a victim impact panel and Alcohol Drug Information School. 

Thompson’s two-year, unmonitored probation requires that he not possess or consume alcoholic beverages, marijuana or controlled substances or drive without a valid license and proof of insurance.

He acknowledged a second incident could bring stiffer penalties. “If you’re dumb enough to have another similar incident, you’re in big trouble,” he said.

Sloppy Record Keeping for Weapons, Ammunition and Weapons Training Described by Benton County Sheriff’s Deputies

Benton County sheriff’s deputies describe sloppy record keeping for weapons, ammunition and weapons training certification in a 61-page collection of interviews given to the Observer. The interviews are part of an administrative review of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.  

Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher requested the review from Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond after almost 14,000 rounds of ammunition and 2 firearms, all Benton County property, were discovered at Hatcher’s former home

The findings are included in the review conducted by Franklin County sheriff’s investigators. 

When asked to describe how ammunition is inventoried and stored, Benton Detective Todd Carlson in charge of training told investigators that “there was no inventorying policy that he knew of.” The detective said he would issue ammunition to deputies who needed it. 

As to record keeping on firearm certification, the detective told investigators, that with multiple firearms trainers, “sometimes the sheets aren’t promptly turned in, or they are left in cars, etc.” 

The detective said he often did not know who used the shooting range until he got a record.

Sometimes, the detective was told when a deputy’s weapons qualification was overdue, and he then had to track it down.

Several people had access to firearms records, the detective told investigators. 

”There were a number of people who could access and make changes to the records,” the detective said, according to investigators. 

Commander Jon Law said that, “There is a policy [for inventorying firearms], but honestly it is sloppy at times.”

The review was controversial from the beginning.  The Fraternal Order of Police and the Benton County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild pointed out the close working relationship between Raymond and Hatcher. 

The unions said an agency outside of the Tri-Cities should conduct such a review.

Some of the interviewed Benton deputies pointed out that a criminal investigation into potential wrongdoing normally precedes an administrative review.  Those deputies hesitated about talking to Franklin County investigators because they feared retribution from Hatcher. At least two deputies obtained “whistleblower” protections, Sgt. Jason Erickson and Lt. Erik Magnuson, documents show.  

The two Franklin investigators, captains Adam Diaz and Monty Huber, told the deputies that they were consulting with Raymond and could not assure that he was not sharing information with Hatcher.

The review documents sent to the Observer are attached to this post.  Investigators summarized their findings starting on Page 56 of the report.

In response to the administrative review, Erickson, who recently filed to petition for Hatcher’s recall,  submitted a complaint in Benton-Franklin Superior Court (No. 20-250460-11) to obtain records he said were not provided in earlier requests.   

Erickson asked for records of all communication between Hatcher and Raymond, and between Huber and Diaz and either Hatcher or Raymond.

Erickson had obtained an email written by Raymond to Hatcher, Franklin Prosecutor Shawn Sant, Franklin Chief Civil Deputy Jennifer Johnson, and Captain Ronelle Nelson regarding his public record request of April 17, 2020

In the April 20, 2020, email, Raymond refused to turn over the Administrative Review.  He accused FOP attorney Alan Harvey of being “up to his usual antics” and “his usual crap” in making a public record request to obtain a copy of the review. 

“We (FCSO) are not going to fulfill Mr. Harvey(‘s) request as this matter belongs first completed and placed in the hands of Sheriff Hatcher,” Raymond said in the email.

The complete Complaint can be read here.

Franklin County Deputy’s Past Violations Have Similarities to Jones Shooting

Clarification:  The Toppenish Police Department’s newly purchased vehicles do not have dashboard cameras.  The article has been edited to reflect that.

A Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy had enough violations at his past job to warrant serious counseling from the police chief on May 11, 2018, according to documents obtained by the Observer. Eighteen months later on November 18, 2019, Deputy Code Quantrell killed Dante Jones in circumstances similar to those he had been counseled about in Toppenish, where Quantrell was a police officer. The Observer obtained the three-page counseling memo written by Toppenish Police Chief Curt Ruggles May 14, 2018, and a citizen complaint against Quantrell by submitting a public record request.

According to Ruggles, Quantrell pursued a vehicle in a reckless manner for 30 minutes for a traffic violation; pulled a gun on the wrong suspect in a motorcycle reckless driving case and then failed to report the use of force until a complaint was filed; and he damaged patrol vehicles 7 times. 

In his memo Ruggles describes the problems with Quantrell’s vehicle pursuit: 

“1. The pursuit was initiated for a traffic violation of failing to stop/yield while exiting an alley. This is a civil infraction.

 2. At best the actions of the suspect vehicle would constitute a Reckless Driving charge, which is still a gross misdemeanor.

3. The pursuit lasted for approximately 30 minutes, in which almost all of the driver’s actions caused a significant risk to the public’s safety, responding officer’s safety as well as your own safety.

4. Several times throughout the pursuit you mirrored or mimicked the reckless and dangerous actions of the suspect. Both while there was no traffic as well as times where there was traffic.

 5. You intentionally caused significant damage to your patrol vehicle, by driving around/through a dead end street/barricade to continue the pursuit.”

The night of the shooting of the unarmed Dante Jones, Jones was clocked at speeds of anywhere from 55 mph to 87 mph on a rural Franklin County Road at around 3:00 a.m. After the initial pursuit involving two other officers, Sergeant Gordon Thomasson says over the police radio, “he’s not driving recklessly or anything at this point, he’s pretty much slowed down to highway speeds”.  (Radio transcripts were included in the Tri-Cities Special Investigative Unit Report obtained by the Observer with a public record request.) He “commanded” that Quantrell “terminate the pursuit” (Page 6 of the report). Instead Quantrell continued until he claimed that he was being brake checked and almost hit by Jones. “Assault 1” he said (Page 57 of the SIU report).

In counseling Quantrell in Toppenish, Ruggles quotes Pursuit Driving Policy (SOP 40.005):  “Also, reckless and unsafe driving after police engagement is not part of the determination as to whether or not the suspect vehicles’ actions create an immediate risk to public safety.” 

On the day of the Quantrell counseling in Toppenish a motorcyclist registered a complaint against Quantrell for pulling a gun on him for alleged reckless driving.  The motorcyclist was stopped by Quantrell at an ATM because his clothing matched a report on a reckless motorcyclist made by another officer. Quantrell claimed the motorcyclist was trying to flee even though the cyclist said his motorcycle was not running. According to Ruggles’ memo, “Again, this is 6 minutes after the initial call and nowhere near the area of town the motorcycle would been intercepted if it would have continued northbound on North Meyer… This stop is merely a stop for reckless driving, there has been no violence towards another.” The memo notes that Ruggles “viewed the video.” It is not clear where the video originated, but some Toppenish police cars have dashboard cameras.

Ruggles continued in the memo: “I do not feel the force option of drawing your duty weapon and bringing on target was reasonable or necessary for that time and that place. That aside, the tactic of you advancing on the suspect with your weapon drawn, without cover officers being present is not a tactic that has been trained at this department or even a tactic that is safe.” He continues: “What you did is considered ‘Tombstone Courage’ and that behavior has resulted in injuries and even death in police officers nationwide.”

Furthermore, Ruggles wrote that Quantrell “employed a deadly force option and failed to document the incident until the next day, after Lucas had already called the department indicating his desire to file a complaint and speak with me.”  Ruggles cited this as a violation of SOP 40.002 – Departmental Use of Force.

In the Dante Jones case, Quantrell stated that when Jones pulled his vehicle next to his, he got out of his patrol car with his weapon in his right hand, opened the passenger side door and reached in with his left hand to take keys out of the ignition. He claims Jones hit the gas and Quantrell had to shoot the unarmed Jones four times because he was trapped in the car and feared that he would be “drug under the car or ran over” (pg. 6 of the SIU report). According to the police radio transcript, no more than 39 seconds elapsed between Jones pulling up to Quantrell’s vehicle and shots being fired.

The Washington State Patrol Crime Scene Response Team concluded: “Four shots were fired into the vehicle striking Mr. Dante Jones multiple times from the open passenger door/window while he was in the driver seat.”(Page 478 of the report). 

According to the crime scene team, three of the four shell casings were found on the road; one was found in the car. “All of the bullet paths associated with the multiple gunshot wounds to Mr. Donte Jones were from his right to left.”

The Observer contacted Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond to ask what policies and investigations he used in the process of hiring new deputies.  He responded: “Hiring of Sheriff Office Employee’s/Deputies is extensive. One must first pass a written and physical testing process to establish themselves on a Civil Service list.  Once on a hiring list and before the being hired the agency does an exhaustive background investigation on the person. An investigation which involves visiting past employers, neighborhoods where the person lived and so on. After this process is complete the applicant has to undergo a polygraph, medical and psychological examinations. Then they are offered a position if the Sheriff or Chief chooses as you get to pick from the top five applicants.”

 Prosecutor Shawn Sant wrote the Observer a month ago, “I am still awaiting evidence to be evaluated and returned from the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory. I will not be able to complete my findings until I have ALL available evidence for review and consideration.”  He has not responded to a recent request for additional information.

Franklin Prosecutor Must Charge Deputy with Killing Dante Jones and Lying to Investigators

Dante Jones Headstone

I sent the following letter to Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant, 1016 N. 4th Avenue, Pasco, Washington 99301. The phone number to the office is 509-545-3543,  ssant@co.franklin.wa.us

Dear Prosecutor Sant:

I writing to urge you to charge Deputy Cody Quantrell with killing unarmed Dante Redmond Jones and lying to investigators.

The evidence in the Special Investigation Unit report does not support Quantrell’s story about the shooting.  According to the Washington State Patrol Crime Scene Response Team, “Four shots were fired into the vehicle striking Mr. Dante Jones multiple times from the open passenger door/window while he was in the driver seat.”  Three of the four shell casings were found on the road.  This does not support Quantrell’s dragging story.

By disobeying the command to “terminate the pursuit”,  Quantrell put himself in the position, as he claims in his statement, to relive his Army days and decide he was being ambushed when Jones pulled his vehicle next to Quantrell’s patrol car.  Quantrell stepped out of his car and shot Jones through Jone’s open passenger door.  After the three deputies pulled Jones out of his car and found no weapon, a new story for shooting him was invented.

Speeding and resisting arrest are not capital offenses.  Law enforcement officers are not judge, jury and executioners.  The killing of unarmed black men must stop.  I urge you to charge Quantrell and let a jury decide.  Our community needs justice.

Sincerely,

Lillian “Randy” Slovic

Forensic Evidence Contradicts Franklin Sheriff Deputies’ Statements in the Shooting of Unarmed Dante Redmond Jones

Dante Jones on active duty with the Marines

Forensic evidence in the Special Investigative Unit’s Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Case #19-05347, obtained through a public records request made to the Franklin County prosecutor, contradicts statements by the deputies involved in shooting unarmed Dante Redmond Jones. The shooting occurred on November 18, 2019 in rural Franklin County. Without dashboard cameras, body cameras and witnesses, collecting other evidence remains the only method for judging the veracity of officer accounts. 

The Washington State Patrol Crime Scene Response Team concluded:

Four shots were fired into the vehicle striking Mr. Dante Jones multiple times from the open passenger door/window while he was in the driver seat. (Page 478 of the report)

This conclusion was based on the location of the bullet holes and trajectory of the bullets. (Pages 664-681)   

But the shooter, Franklin County Deputy Cody Quantrell, backed by Deputy Andrew Gardner have a different story. Deputy Quantrell stated that after he pulled up next to Jones’ car with his gun in one hand he had reached into the car with his left hand to get the car keys out of the ignition when Jones accelerated the car. Quantrell said that passenger door closed on him and he became pinned between the seat and the car door. Fearing for his life he shot Jones.

The shooting occurred after an on again, off again high speed chase, after which the two, Gardner and Quantrell, seemed confused about whether there were one or two “near collisions” with Jones who was clocked at anywhere from 87mph to 55 mph on the rural Franklin County Highway at around three o’clock in the morning. (Page 7) No damage can be seen on any of the sheriff department vehicles which are pictured in the report.

Four shots were fired. Three of the bullet casings were found in the middle of the road. (page 124-138) The other casing was found on the floor of the passenger side of the car (Page 681). If the door was closed on Quantrell, how did the three casings end up in the road? And why did the trajectory of the bullets show that they were fired from an open car door or window as the Washington State Patrol Crime Scene Report Team reports and not from close range from the passenger seat in the car where Quantrell said he was trapped?

At around 03:18 Sargeant Gordon Thomasson who had also been involved in the chase, gave a “terminate pursuit command.”  But Deputy Quantrell was not satisfied with that and said, “do you care if we still follow from a distance” (page 7). There was no response. Although Thomasson said in his statement that he gave the okay, the radio record (begins on page 22) does not support that and Quantrell admits in his statement that he did not get the okay to continue the pursuit (page 1389). At 03:23.16 Quantrell said “He just tried to hit my car. I have assault 1.” 

At 3:23:55 Shots fired. It only took less than 39 seconds for Quantrell to stop his car, get out of it and shoot the unarmed Jones.

At the time of the shooting Quantrell had been with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department for one year. From 2013 to 2016 he was with the Yakima Nation Tribe and from 2016 until 2018 he was with the Toppenish Police Department. Prior to his police work, he spent three years in the military in a perimeter reconnaissance unit. (page 1343)

In addition to the shooting evidence, the report has other interesting information– almost 200 pages of comments posted on Facebook regarding the shooting (page 731 to 904). The record includes posts made to the Tri- City Herald Facebook page as well as posts on other media Facebook pages in addition to those on the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office page.

Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant has given no indication as to when he will respond to the report. In 2015 he declined to bring charges against three Pasco police who fired 17 times at Antonio Zambrano-Montes who had been throwing rocks.