In about six weeks, a jury will decide if brothers Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin are guilty of assaulting an Olympia police officer.
It’s been nearly two years since Thompson and Chaplin were shot by Officer Ryan Donald, sparking debates about racism throughout Thurston County and igniting a local Black Lives Matter movement.
It’s been about 18 months since the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office determined that Donald couldn’t be charged in connection with the shooting, and charges were filed against Thompson and Chaplin. A trial in Thurston County Superior Court starts Monday, with Judge Erik Price presiding.
Crystal Chaplin, the suspects’ mother, said her family has stayed strong since the shooting.
“My sons and I are grateful for all the support we have been receiving these past 22 months,” she said. “I want to thank the community family and extended families for standing with us. It has been a very stressful and emotional process going back and forth to court.”
The Chaplin-Thompson family lives in Olympia.
Thompson and Chaplin face assault charges resulting from an alleged May 21, 2015, attack on Donald, who was attempting to apprehend the brothers after responding to a report of an assault on a supermarket employee.
Both men were shot during the altercation with Donald, who was cleared of wrongdoing by the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office and the Olympia Police Department.
Each suspect faces two counts of second-degree assault. Chaplin faces an additional charge of third-degree assault related to the alleged confrontation with the west Olympia supermarket employee.
Chaplin faces three counts of third-degree theft, based on allegations that he stole items from the supermarket. Thompson faces one related count of third-degree theft.
Price previously described the case as “unusual.” It nearly went to trial in November with now-retired Judge Gary Tabor. Jury selection began Nov. 7, but attorney George Trejo, who represents Chaplin, was hospitalized a short time later because of an infection on his toe.
When attorneys met the following Monday, they asked for a week’s delay. But with the holidays approaching, Tabor opted to push the trial to March 6.
Tabor retired at the end of 2016.
Deputy Prosecutors Scott Jackson and Wayne Graham will represent the state, and attorney Sunni Ko will represent Thompson.
What to expect
The state’s lengthy witness list includes 27 law enforcement officers from the Olympia Police Department, Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, Lacey Police Department, Tumwater Police Department, Evergreen State College Police Department and Washington State Patrol. Donald is among the police officers expected to testify.
The May 21 incident was investigated by the Thurston County Critical Incident Team, made up of five local law enforcement agencies. The team is called in to investigate major incidents involving law enforcement, including officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths. The Sheriff’s Office took the lead on this investigation.
Three potential witnesses are Safeway employees, and two are doctors at Providence St. Peter Hospital.
Jasmine Thompson, older sister of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin, is a potential witness. The morning after the shooting, Jasmine Thompson told The Olympian that she saw the shooting.
She said she was coming home from the hospital, where she was examined for a work-related injury, when she saw the incident and that she was close enough that she worried about bullets flying through her car window.
She arrived home and her brothers weren’t there.
That’s when I started to worry,” Thompson said. “I thought, ‘Did I just see my brother get shot?’ ”
Another 33 potential witnesses live off Cooper Point Road — but Jackson said a few probably won’t be called.
Price said that paring down the number of witnesses could shorten jury selection and the trial.
Trejo’s list of witnesses adds two Olympia police sergeants and a lieutenant to the mix.
Ko’s witnesses include expert witnesses in forensics, a private investigator, two additional doctors from Providence St. Peter Hospital and a Pierce County assistant medical examiner.
However, these witnesses likely won’t take the stand until March 27 or March 28.
Jury selection begins March 20 about 8:30 a.m. Price said Wednesday that the county will call 180 potential jurors. The number will be narrowed down to 12 jurors and three alternates through written questionnaires and attorneys’ questions.
Price explained that questionnaires are designed to disclose two issues: whether a potential juror has been exposed to media coverage or other publicity regarding the case, or if a potential juror is able to be present during a six-week trial.
During the last attempt at trial, 63 jurors were excused because they couldn’t attend the whole trial.
Trejo said that he’ll try to determine whether potential jurors have biases or strong feelings regarding race and policing.
“I will ask about the race issue, and I will ask about the police issue,” Trejo said.
Price said the jury will likely be seated by Thursday afternoon. Attorneys will begin opening statements the following Monday morning — March 27. Witness testimony will follow.
For the most part, the trial will run Monday through Thursday, with Fridays open for “emergencies,” Price said.