Olympia police Officer Ryan Donald testified Wednesday that he was “focused on life preservation” when he fired several rounds at Bryson Chaplin on May 21, 2015.
Donald said Chaplin was holding a skateboard over his head as his brother, Andre Thompson, held on to his right arm. Donald said he pulled out his gun with his left hand and fired at Chaplin.
“I believed the subject was going to swing the skateboard down and strike me in the head,” Donald said.
“I decided that to protect myself that I was going to use deadly force to prevent myself from being harmed or seriously injured by the skateboard.”
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Donald described the shooting Wednesday in Thurston County Superior Court during the assault trial of Chaplin and Thompson. So far, the prosecutor has questioned him. Defense attorneys will likely begin their questioning sometime Thursday. He began his testimony Tuesday.
The trial has been going on for about six weeks.
This is the first time Donald has spoken publicly about the incident — although his official statement was previously released by the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.
Chaplin and Thompson face assault charges resulting from an alleged attack on Donald, who was attempting to apprehend the brothers after responding to a report of thefts and an assault at a west Olympia supermarket.
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.
The Prosecutor's Office also filed theft charges against Thompson and Chaplin in October. Chaplin pleaded guilty March 27 to three counts of third-degree theft. Thompson still faces one count of third-degree theft.
Each man is charged with two counts of second-degree assault for the alleged attack on Donald, and Chaplin also faces one count of fourth-degree theft for an alleged assault on a Safeway employee.
The hours of testimony Wednesday began with Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson asking Donald about his stature, education and work history. Donald, 37, said he stands 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs about 170 pounds. He graduated from Timberline High School in Lacey and served as a military police officer for about six years.
He enlisted in the Army shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. He was stationed in Germany and served in Iraq.
Donald became an Olympia police officer in 2011 and typically worked the graveyard shift.
On May 21, 2015, Donald was working the graveyard shift, covering downtown Olympia.
He said he drove to west Olympia to respond to reports of a theft and assault at Safeway. Donald and other officers — each in their own patrol car — began looking for the suspects.
Donald said he eventually spotted two men, one in a white shirt and one in a black shirt, walking north on Cooper Point Road Northwest.
The man in the white shirt was later identified as Thompson, and the other as Chaplin.
He drove past them, turned his car around and stopped it in front of the suspects. Donald said he turned on his spotlight and shined it at the men.
“I expected them to stop,” he said.
But they didn’t, Donald said. So he opened the car door and asked them to sit in front of the car. Donald said the men kept walking, so he ordered them to stop. He said they didn’t.
Donald said Chaplin then acted like he was going to hit Donald’s patrol car with his skateboard.
“He was carrying a skateboard in his hands,” Donald said. “He raised the skateboard up over his head with both hands and began running toward the patrol car.”
“I thought he was going to strike the patrol car with the skateboard,” he said.
The officer said he drew his gun from his holster, then held it down along his left leg. Chaplin lowered the skateboard and didn’t strike the car. Donald said he re-holstered the gun.
Donald moved to the back, left side of the car. The men continued walking past the patrol car, he said. He said he believed they were going to attempt to run or damage the car.
“I wasn’t going to contact them, being a solo officer and the perceived threat of the skateboard,” Donald said.
He said he again addressed the men, telling them that he was a police officer who needed to talk to them. Donald said they “advanced on him relatively quickly.”
As the men got to the rear of the car, Donald said Thompson turned toward him, and grabbed his right arm, and Donald said he tried to pull away.
Donald said that his arm was pinned to his body, and he felt pressure on his back. He felt as though Thompson was pulling him to the ground, and he was forced into a crouching position.
He said Chaplin raised his skateboard over his head. Donald said he could see the board’s metal trucks, and he believed Chaplin would bring them down onto his head.
He said he believed the skateboard would kill or seriously injure him.
“I decided that to protect myself that I was going to use deadly force to prevent myself from being harmed or seriously injured by the skateboard,” Donald said.
He said he pulled out his gun with his left hand, and pointed it toward Chaplin. He fired several rounds. Chaplin lowered his skateboard, and Thompson let go.
At this point, Jackson brought out two evidence packages, both containing skateboards. The first skateboard had red and white graphics on the bottom, and two photos of a woman wearing a black bra. The other skateboard had red, yellow and black flame graphics on the bottom. Donald said he didn’t know which one Chaplin had been holding.
Both men began running north and eventually entered the woods. Donald said he believed he had shot Chaplin, based on his yelling and how he was running.
Based on radio traffic, Donald believed that another officer would respond with a K9 to track the suspects. He said said he moved to the last known location of Thompson and Chaplin. He said he didn’t enter the woods because he was by himself and so he wouldn’t interfere with the K9 track. But he could hear Thompson and Chaplin in the woods.
“I heard what sounded like twigs breaking and branches snapping and brush being moved,” Donald said.
Eventually, Donald saw Chaplin crouching in the woods, a few feet off of the road. Donald said he drew his firearm again and began giving commands for Chaplin to show him his hands and lie on the ground. Chaplin was still holding the skateboard, he said. He wasn’t sure where Thompson was.
Donald said he began backing up, keeping his eye on Chaplin.
At that point, testimony concluded for the day. It was scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.