Defense attorneys question Officer Ryan Donald for inconsistencies

Olympia Police Officer Ryan Donald responds to defense attorney Sunni Ko’s during the trial of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin on Monday in Thurston County Superior Court.
Olympia Police Officer Ryan Donald responds to defense attorney Sunni Ko’s during the trial of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin on Monday in Thurston County Superior Court. sbloom@theolympian.com

Olympia Police Officer Ryan Donald continued his testimony in Thurston County Superior Court on Monday, fielding questions from defense attorneys on cross-examination who repeatedly probed him for what they viewed as inconsistent statements regarding events surrounding the shooting of two black men in west Olympia two years ago.

Prosecuting attorneys quickly came to his defense, frequently objecting to questioning from defense attorney George Trejo. Throughout the day, Donald held his own, while asking defense attorneys to repeat or clarify their questions.

Emotions were mostly in check Monday, although defense attorney Sunni Ko, after questioning that appeared to have stalled, asked to “footnote” the conversation for another time.

“You can footnote it,” Donald shot back, eliciting an objection from Trejo, who didn’t like his response.

Donald is not on trial, but is a witness in the trial of Andre Thompson and his brother, Bryson Chaplin. His appearance likely explains the large gallery that turned out Monday, curious about what happened early May 21, 2015.

Trejo represents Chaplin. Ko represents Thompson. Thurston County’s prosecuting attorneys are Wayne Graham and Scott Jackson.

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 faces one count of fourth-degree assault for an alleged assault on a Safeway employee.

On Monday, Ko repeatedly tried to highlight apparent inconsistencies in Donald’s testimony, comparing statements he made before the trial and during it.

In one example, Donald said the suspects fled north the night of the shooting, but previously he had said they turned left and headed west.

“That was a mistake and assumption on your part,” Ko said.

“That was what I believed at the time,” he said.

Trejo, in a much more flamboyant style, tried to further exploit the apparent inconsistencies by asking how many times Donald had allegedly made a mistake in his previous statements.

Donald declined to specify or approximate, which led Trejo to raise the example of the skateboard that was allegedly swung at Donald during the night of the shooting, and how Donald had previously described it as 4 feet long, when in fact it was 2 feet, he said.

To make his point, Trejo said his pant inseam measures 30 inches.

“Have you never measured your inseam?” Trejo asked Donald. “Would you like to measure mine?”

“No, I wouldn’t,” Donald said.

“I’ll let you,” Trejo said.

“No, I’m good,” Donald said.

That line of questioning brought prosecuting attorney Scott Jackson to his feet, objecting to Trejo’s approach. Jackson also objected to Trejo making statements, rather than asking questions. The objections eventually resulted in two side conferences with Superior Court Judge Erik Price.

Trejo also asked about “center mass,” an area of the body between the neck and navel that Donald was apparently aiming at.

“You’re shooting to kill, aren’t you?”

“I was shooting to stop a threat,” Donald said.

Trejo repeated his question and Donald said if he was shooting to kill, he “would have shot them in the face.”

“You shot at the suspects,” Trejo said.

“Who were assaulting a police officer,” Donald replied, citing the facts and evidence.

“Facts and evidence?” Trejo said. “Based on your testimony and no one else’s. Nobody corroborated your evidence.

“Can you name one independent witness that saw you being assaulted?”

Donald acknowledged that he was not aware of one.

Earlier, Ko had brought up Donald’s inconsistent statements about whether one suspect had been shot in the right arm or left arm.

Donald’s recollection was that it was the left arm.

She asked if he had changed his story.

“Did it concern you that it might not be believable if he held the skateboard over his head but had bullets in his right arm?”

Jackson objected to the question and Ko rephrased.

“I’ve got nothing to hide,” Donald said.