Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Officer Involved Shooting Documents Released; Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations Meets


By Janine Unsoeld
www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com

The Thurston County Prosecutor's Office released today a large portion of the documents related to the investigation into the Olympia police officer involved shooting on May 21st of two African-American men in Olympia.  

That information can be viewed at www.co.thurston.wa.us/pao/critical-incident-report.htmand includes transcriptions of witness statements and Olympia police officer Ryan Donald, who shot Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin.

A statement today on the Olympia Police Department website says:

In our promise to be transparent with our community we are relaying this information and link. The Prosecutor has told us that this is the majority of the information, although a few pieces of the investigation are still under review. Please note that this is not the Prosecutor’s decision or resolution on this case. The Prosecutor’s Office will publicly announce when his office has completed the review and made a decision.

The Olympia Police Department, like our community, is reading and digesting the investigative reports that were just released. We are all patiently waiting for this process to be completed. We appreciate the thoughtful and detailed work that the independent investigative team and the Prosecutor’s Office is conducting with this important matter for our community.

If you have questions about this material, please contact the Thurston County Prosecutor Office at 360.786.5540.

Jim Johnson, a resident in the Olympia area near Cooper Point Road and Langridge where the shooting of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin took place on May 21, heard the shots that evening. He was present at tonight’s first meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations.

Johnson was one of many community members who spoke out at a May 26 Olympia City Council meeting devoted to the shooting.  

His testimony to the council was transcribed by this reporter in a May 26 article at Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com/2015/05/olympia-community-speaks-to-city.html. In that testimony, five days after the shooting, he revealed that neither he or his wife or neighbors had yet been interviewed by the police.

Speaking with Johnson after tonight’s Ad Hoc Committee meeting, Johnson said he was aware his witness report was part of what was released by the Prosecutor’s Office this afternoon, but has not had a chance to read it yet.  He said that the day after he gave his testimony to the city council, the police came to his house and he was formally interviewed.

Asked what he thought of tonight’s meeting of the committee, he showed this reporter his public comment sheet. It said, “This is appalling – two hours and you did not even schedule the next meeting (the purpose of which is to schedule the first opportunity for the public to comment).”


Above: Ad Hoc Committee on Community and Police Relations Member Curt Pavola introduces himself to the audience. In his day job, he works for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, and served on the Olympia City Council from 2001-2005.  He said he came to Olympia when he about 25 years old as a gay man, at a time when there were no laws for the protection against discrimination in housing and employment. He felt welcomed here and worked with others for the passage of those laws, but also recognizes that the spirit of a law is not necessarily implemented. He said that the city’s comprehensive plan, particularly the chapter on policing, is a good platform for implementing and expressing our community values.

Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations

The first meeting of a city organized committee of five citizens was held tonight at Garfield Elementary School in the multi-purpose room. The group is composed of Reiko Callner, Kerensa Mabwa, Curt Pavola, Clinton Petty, Alejandro Rugarcia, and ex-officio member Lt. Aaron Jelcick of the Olympia Police Department.

Hearing the speakers was difficult at times for many audience members. A loud fan went on intermittently throughout the meeting, and some members of the group had their backs to the audience. About 40 people were in attendance at the beginning of the meeting. The meeting was audiotaped by the City of Olympia.

The group was tasked by the Olympia City Council with receiving information from the community about methods for engaging underrepresented and minority groups on policing practices and to seek input on a process for engaging the public on implementing police-worn body cameras.

The two hour meeting this evening focused on introductions, a review of the open public meetings act and public records act, a review of the committee charter, and discussion about future meeting dates and locations.

It was very late into the meeting that the Ad Hoc Committee co-chair Reiko Callner acknowledged the elephant in the room: the shooting of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin by an Olympia police officer.

“We’re the only group asking these (police-related) questions right now…we need to listen to all of it even if it’s not on task with our charter,” said committee member co-chair Curt Pavola.

The group anticipates meeting again in about a week and a half but did not set a date, time or location. Pavola said he hoped the group could meet in different locations around the community and get different people to drop in from area neighborhoods.

Callner acknowledged at the end of the meeting that the acoustics of the room were difficult, and microphones were needed for future meetings. She said that city hall can accommodate those needs as well as televising meetings through Thurston Community Television.

It was also suggested that the public should be asked their thoughts about locations and future forum topics.

Community Members Take The Lead

A group called Unity in the Community was organized in response to the shooting and will have a meeting on September 10, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at the Olympia Center, Room A. The purpose of the meeting is to provide the community an opportunity to react to and discuss the outcome of the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office findings, anticipated in early September. 

“If this had happened to a couple of blonde, blue eyed kids, this (the shooting) probably wouldn’t have happened, so that started (the group), but it’s also an opportunity to have a series of conversations about institutional racism and oppression, said Kathy Baros Friedt, a member of Unity in the Community.

“....It’s past time, she continued. There are so many things right about having this conversation about race that didn’t exist before….and the faith community is socially engaged and more inclusive than ever before.” 

For more information about the Olympia Police Department, the Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations, and community conversations about the shooting in Olympia on May 21, go to Little Hollywood at www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search engine.