Family of ex-soldier killed by deputy seeks inquest

Staff writerMarch 28, 2014 

The family of the former Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier shot to death last week by a sheriff’s deputy has filed a request for an independent review of the incident, known as a coroner’s inquest, the family’s attorney said.

Brian McLeod’s family filed the request with the Pierce County executive’s and chief prosecutor’s offices because they want to know what could have been done differently late Friday when officers responded to reports of a fight in McLeod’s University Place apartment.

“These officers didn’t have to force a conflict,” said Joseph Norton III, McLeod’s brother-in-law and the family’s spokesman.

A sheriff’s department spokesman said the deputy and a Fircrest police officer faced an imminent threat.

The shooting took place after a loud struggle between McLeod and a friend from his former Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker battalion. The friend left the apartment around the time officers arrived. He lay down on the ground behind them.

The two officers saw McLeod emerge from his apartment with a shotgun. Pierce County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Ed Troyer said McLeod raised the weapon in the direction of the officers or McLeod’s friend and the officers told him to put down the gun. Deputy J Sousley then shot McLeod.

McLeod, 25, was a former Wilson High School student who served in Afghanistan with a Lewis-McChord Stryker battalion that saw hard fighting in 2009-10. He separated from the Army in 2011 with the rank of sergeant.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is conducting its own review of the shooting. It is expected to take several more weeks.

Karl Williams, the family’s attorney, on Thursday said he filed the request for a separate review.

An inquest would bring another level of scrutiny beyond what the county normally conducts after an officer-involved shooting. The county medical examiner would call witnesses to an open court, and attorneys could question them.

Williams’ intent, he said, is to bring “some transparency to the whole situation.”

The county executive’s office had not received the request late Thursday.

Troyer described a brutal scene in the apartment suggesting the two men had hurled objects at each other. He noted both men appeared drunk and that the shotgun McLeod was carrying was loaded.

The Medical Examiner’s office has only released information that appears on McLeod’s death certificate, which says he died from gunshot wounds.

“We just want to get more information about what went on,” Norton said.

The family’s concerns center on a few details they learned from McLeod’s Army friend and from neighbors, as well as evidence they observed in the apartment. They further ask whether officers could have taken cover and waited for the situation to cool down.

McLeod’s widow, Katie, told her brother that she talked with her husband about half an hour before the shooting. She said they told each other that they loved one another and she did not notice anything amiss.

She heard gunshots when she pulled up to the apartment and officers directed her to stay in her car.

She and McLeod married in 2007 just before he left University Place for basic training.
Family members have said McLeod appeared to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after he left the Army. He seemed depressed to them.

The shooting is “a damn tragedy. This guy fought for our country,” Norton said. “All he wanted to do was be a father. He was a good man.”

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