Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim won’t file criminal charges against the Washington State Patrol trooper who fatally shot a Spanaway man July 8 on Interstate 5 in Lacey.
Tunheim’s office reviewed a multi-agency investigation into the shooting of Michael Anthony Rude, 22, and determined that Trooper John Pierce’s actions were “justified,” according to Anne Larsen, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office.
Pierce, who has been with the state patrol for about 18 years and is based in King County, was on paid leave during the investigation. He returned to full duty on Sept. 11, said Kyle Moore, a spokesman for the state patrol.
Now that the investigation is complete, the state patrol is conducting an internal investigation into the fatal shooting. It’s expected to be finished soon, Moore said.
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Rude’s parents say they’re angry that the trooper won’t face criminal charges for shooting their son three times. They believe authorities used pieces of their interviews to paint their son as suicidal. And they believe police should have helped Rude instead of killing him.
“When you have the gun, you have control of the situation,” said Rude’s stepdad, Sergio Sulin of Spanaway. “They’re trying to build a case to protect the police officer.”
The Olympia Police Department led the Thurston County Critical Incident Team’s investigation into the shooting. A 62-page report obtained by The Olympian through a public records request includes interviews of dispatchers, troopers and Rude’s family members and friends.
According to the report:
At 6:13 a.m., Rude called 911. He was driving south on state Route 167, approaching state Route 410 near Sumner.
He told a dispatcher that he was driving faster than 90 mph.
“I’m driving really crazy,” Rude said. “I’m driving erratically. I’m a danger to those around me. I need to be pulled over now. I have a knife and I’m going to attack whoever pulls me over.”
Rude provided updates to the dispatcher as he merged onto Interstate 5 near state Route 512 and passed various exits, including Bridgeport Way and Berkeley Street in Lakewood.
He told a dispatcher to let his mom know that he loved her, and that his actions weren’t his family’s fault.
“He never actually stated ‘I am suicidal’ or ‘I want suicide by cop,’” the dispatcher said in an interview with the investigator. “He never actually said that. But it was the statements that he was making that led me to believe that.”
Rude drove for more than 30 miles. Several people called 911 to report his vehicle speeding down the freeway.
At 6:48 a.m., Washington State Patrol troopers saw Rude’s vehicle on southbound I-5 approaching Martin Way. Rude “dove” the vehicle from the far right lane to the far left one and pulled over on the shoulder, near the Carpenter Road overpass. Five state patrol vehicles, all with their emergency lights on, arrived at the scene. Only two of the vehicles were marked.
Rude “immediately exited his vehicle holding what appeared to be a 10-inch switchblade knife” in his right hand, the report states.
In video footage captured from dashboard cameras in a trooper’s vehicle, a trooper can be heard saying, “Drop the knife.” “Drop the f***ing knife.” “Stop.” “Mike, you don’t want to do this.” “It’s not worth it.” “Do not make me do it.”
The video shows Trooper Jon Leifson retreating toward the rear of his vehicle when Rude began running toward him. Leifson told an investigator that Rude had an emotionless expression on his face.
“He looked like he wanted to kill us,” Leifson told investigators.
Meanwhile, Pierce stepped out from behind his vehicle.
“At that point, Rude’s attention diverted towards Pierce, and Rude changed his direction of travel, moving directly towards Pierce with the point of the knife directed at Trooper Pierce,” the report states.
Pierce gave verbal commands and backed up around his vehicle. Rude continued to walk toward him.
Trooper Michael Dominguez exited his vehicle with a “less lethal shotgun.” He moved toward Pierce, saying “Less lethal, less lethal, less lethal.”
But it was too late.
“As Dominguez made his first announcement, Rude was already within arm’s length of Pierce, who engaged the subject with three shots from his patrol-issued handgun,” the report stated. “Although Dominguez was in the area of the subject, he did not have a clear field of view in order to engage Rude with the less lethal shotgun.”
Officials say 11.99 seconds passed between the time Rude exited his vehicle and when shots were fired.
Pierce told investigators that Rude was carrying the knife in a threatening manner and that he “believed that my safety and my life were in imminent danger and I needed to stop the threat.” He said Rude winced after the first shot, but “stood straight back up and squared back up to me.”
“I fired two more rounds at his body because I was still in fear for my life and my first round failed to stop the threat,” he said. “… I believed he was determined to attack me and that if he got through me, he would have attacked other troopers on scene.”
At 6:49 a.m., Trooper Andrew Stoeckle reported, “Shots fired. Request aid,” over the radio.
Stoeckle handcuffed Rude. Pierce began CPR compressions, saying “Stay with us.” Dominguez cut off Rude’s shirts and applied quick-clot bandages to two wounds in his upper chest.
At 6:59 a.m., medics with Lacey Fire District 3 arrived, took over CPR and hooked up a heart monitor. Lt. Jeffrey McDaniel noted that “no pulses were present and it was obvious they could not keep up with the hemorrhage control.”
Medics discontinued CPR at 7:02 a.m.
Southbound I-5 was shut down near the scene for about two and a half hours. The freeway’s left lanes were closed for about nine hours, as evidence was collected from the scene.
Troopers at the scene stated that they smelled intoxicants on Rude. A limited toxicology test showed that his blood alcohol level was .081, which is just above the legal limit.
Interviews indicate that Rude’s biological father was abusive, and that Rude had been having problems with his girlfriend. He called his mother and stepfather that morning and told them that he loved them.
After the shooting, four of the troopers at the scene had a “standard load” of 46 rounds — two 15-round magazines in their duty belts, one 15-round magazine in their service pistols and one round in the chambers of their firearms.
Pierce had 43 rounds.
Olympia Police Detective Al Weinnig led the multi-agency investigation into the shooting. He wrote that he believed Rude presented a threat to the troopers who were on the scene.
“The speed at which Rude approached the troopers provided little to no time for the officers involved to deescalate the situation or use alternate uses of force in order to halt Rude’s assault,” Weinnig wrote. “Trooper Pierce’s application of force by firing three rounds to stop Rude’s approach appeared to be his last resort. ...”