Prosecutors have concluded that the officers involved in the deadly police shooting of Kevin Peterson, Jr. in October during an undercover narcotics investigation in Washington State were acting within the law and will not be charged.
In December, Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik appointed Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mary Robnett to review the investigation into Peterson’s death and determine whether charges should be filed against any of the three officers involved.
Her 16-page legal analysis explaining why she didn’t charge the police was published on Monday, declaring that their use of force on 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, a 21-year-old Black male, was slain in an undercover narcotics investigation in late October after an informant accused him of peddling prescription pills.
The informant planned to meet Peterson in a Hazel Dell Quality Inn parking lot, and officers attempted to arrest him when he arrived in a Mercedes Benz automobile, according to the authorities.
Peterson then fled the vehicle on foot, armed with a loaded.40 caliber Glock 23 handgun, and was apprehended by officers at a neighboring bank, who fired their service weapons more than 30 times, hitting Peterson four times. At the spot, he was pronounced dead.
His death provoked riots and counter-protests in Vancouver following a series of high-profile police-involved homicides of Black men, including that of George Floyd on Memorial Day.
Robnett said Peterson took the gun with him as he exited his truck, grabbed it after it was dropped against police orders for him to leave it where it was, and aimed it at the containment officers who apprehended him at the bank in her analysis of why the cops were not charged on Monday.
“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.