Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin trial goes to the jury

It was standing room only Thursday during closing arguments for the trial of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin.
It was standing room only Thursday during closing arguments for the trial of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin. rboone@theolympian.com

After eight weeks and 46 witnesses, the Thurston County Superior Court trial of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin finally is in the hands of the jury.

Closing arguments took place Thursday and jury deliberations begin Friday (May 12).

Chaplin and Thompson face assault charges resulting from an alleged attack on Olympia police Officer Ryan Donald, who was attempting to apprehend the brothers while 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.

Donald is not on trial, but spent more than three days on the witness stand testifying in this case. He also was in the courtroom Thursday during closing arguments, one of many people who filled the gallery. A number of Olympia police officers also were present, likely to show support for Donald.

Chaplin and Thompson each are charged with two counts of second-degree assault for the alleged attack on Donald using their skateboards as weapons. Chaplin faces one count of fourth-degree assault for an alleged assault on a Safeway employee prior to the encounter with Donald.

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 faced one count of third-degree theft until Tuesday, when defense attorney Sunni Ko successfully argued that there was insufficient evidence for that charge. The judge agreed and dismissed it.

Closing arguments took most of Thursday, beginning with Prosecuting Attorney Scott Jackson, followed by Chaplin’s attorney, George Trejo, then Thompson’s attorney, Sunni Ko, and ending with Jackson’s rebuttal.

Jackson started by reminding the jury that the trial was about Thompson and Chaplin.

“That’s why we are here,” he said.

He reviewed the state’s evidence: the Safeway surveillance video, the 911 call, police radio traffic and statements from witnesses who testified they heard about four shots fired on Cooper Point Road on May 21, 2015, as well as commands to get down or stop — all of which were consistent with the evidence, Jackson said.

“They are drunk. And they want to fight. And they want to hide. And that’s what they did, and that’s what the evidence has shown,” said Jackson about the brothers, adding they both had blood alcohol levels of about 0.18, or more than twice the legal limit.

“They started this and (Donald) had to defend himself and he used deadly force because he thought his life was in jeopardy,” Jackson said.

He asked the jury to return a verdict of guilty to second-degree assault. However, if they don’t view the skateboards as a deadly weapon, then Jackson urged them to return a lesser verdict of third-degree assault.

Still, he had a preference.

“I ask that you return a verdict of guilty on all the counts submitted to you,” Jackson said.

Trejo, Chaplin’s attorney, reminded the jury about the presumption of innocence. He also questioned Donald’s demeanor on the stand, his inability to cooperate, his “ridiculous” answers on the stand, and “direct evidence of racial insensitivity” in the form of an image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Donald’s Facebook page seven years ago with “I have a dreamsicle” written on it.

“He found it funny, calling it a play on words,” Trejo said. “This isn’t funny.”

Ko, Thompson’s attorney, attacked the state’s case point-by-point, comparing the investigative work and testimony that occurred before the trial to what emerged during it.

“Officer Donald’s story is not credible, the investigation was abysmal, and his story was nonsensical,” she said.

In one of Ko’s examples, Donald said that it was “highly likely” that marks on one arm were created during the incident with the brothers. But Ko questioned why had he never mentioned it before.

“Why now? The state is desperate for evidence to support this kind of altercation,” she said.

Another example: Donald’s description of where he was in relation to his patrol vehicle and the direction of his firearm.

“His left arm was underneath his right arm while the target was behind him and to the right,” she said about what the jury has been asked to believe.

She also expressed disappointment in the state’s investigation with regard to a blood-stained, white T-shirt, worn by one of the brothers, that apparently was never sent to the Washington State Crime Lab.

“If they really cared about the truth in this case, they could have sent the shirt to the crime lab and asked for it to be tested to corroborate or refute Donald’s story,” she said. “They chose not to do that.

“Is that our criminal justice system at its best?” Ko said.

Both Trejo and Ko asked the jury to return not guilty verdicts.

Jackson got a chance to rebut closing arguments, and he presented a slide that said, “Who chose?”

“Who chose to run, to hide, to raise their skateboards and to ignore officer commands?

“The choice was made by these two men,” he said as he pointed at Thompson and Chaplin.