Crime

Donald, witnesses tell their stories about May 21 shooting in west Olympia

When Olympia Police Officer Ryan Donald shot two young men in west Olympia during the early hours of May 21, there were more questions than answers about what had happened.

Why were the men, who were armed only with skateboards, shot? Was the shooting prompted by racism? How many times were they shot? Will Donald or the men he shot — Andre Thompson, 23, and Bryson Chaplin, 21 — face criminal charges?

Many questions remain unanswered. Medical records for Thompson and Chaplin haven’t yet been released, and a charging decision from the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office is expected sometime in the next two weeks.

But the investigation report released by the Prosecutor’s Office and the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 26, complete with transcripts of interviews from officers and witnesses, provides some insight into what happened May 21 on Cooper Point Road. Thurston County Detective David Claridge drafted much of the report, summarizing interviews and evidence.

Ryan Donald, Olympia Police Department

From transcripts of a recorded interview

Officer Ryan Donald, 35, told investigators that about 12:50 a.m. he responded to reports of a theft and assault at the Safeway in west Olympia. He said he didn’t respond to the store, but began looking for suspects in the area.

One of the suspects was described as a 5-foot-11, thin, black man with a tattoo on his neck and wearing a baseball hat. The second suspect was “similar,” Donald said.

He said he checked Limited Lane and Capital High School, but didn’t find the suspects.

Donald said that after 23 minutes of searching, he found suspects matching the description on the 1200 block of Cooper Point Road — one man was wearing a light-colored shirt, and the other was wearing a dark-colored shirt. He said he parked about 20 feet from the men.

He said he exited the vehicle and asked the two men to sit on the ground.

“One suspect ... he immediately raised his skateboard over his head, kinda to the side,” Donald said. “He was gripping it with both hands when he ran toward the front of my patrol car.”

Donald said he believed the man was going to strike the hood or windshield of the patrol car. He said that he took his gun out of its holster and identified himself as an Olympia police officer. The man lowered his skateboard, and Donald put the gun back in its holster and walked toward the back of the patrol vehicle.

Donald said he stepped toward the two men to interview them and that the man in the light shirt grabbed his uniform sleeve. He said he felt like he was being pulled to the ground with his arm pinned against his chest.

“Now this subject, both subjects were taller than me and I believe outweighed me as well,” Donald said.

He said he saw the man in the dark shirt stand over him and raise his skateboard above his head. Donald said he believed the man was preparing to strike him with the metal trucks (axles) of the skateboard.

“And I know cases where people have died being struck with a skateboard,” Donald said.

Donald said he believed that his gun was the only tool he could use to defend himself. He fired at the man in the dark shirt, who lowered his skateboard. The other man let go of him, he said.

He reported that the men ran off along Cooper Point Road, then entered the woods. Donald said he walked to where he had last seen the men.

“I was against two people,” Donald said. “I knew they had assaulted someone at Safeway. They had just assaulted me. One had attempted to basically cause me serious bodily harm with the skateboard over my head. So there was no way I was going to pursuit them any further than the last place I saw them.”

Donald said he was waiting for more officers to arrive so that they could set up a perimeter and locate the men.

Donald said the man in the dark shirt reappeared and charged at him with the skateboard held over his head. Donald said he commanded the man to stop, but he kept charging toward him. Donald fired several rounds at the man.

He said the man in the light shirt began to walk toward him, yelling.

“I was giving him commands, was yelling stop, get on the ground,” Donald said. “Over and over. I’m gonna shoot, feet on the ground. ... He was really close to me. And I vaguely remember looking at his eyes. And he was watching my handgun.”

Donald said he believed the man was going to overpower him, take his gun and kill him.

Donald said he fired at the man an unknown number of times, and the man fell to the ground, still yelling at him.

Shortly after shooting the man, Donald saw another officer emerge from the woods. He said other officers arrived only a few seconds later.

Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin, Olympia residents

From unrecorded interviews with detectives

Thurston County Detective Ben Elkins spoke with Andre Thompson the day following the shooting. A summary but no transcript of what was said was provided.

Thompson told detectives neither he nor his brother Bryson Chaplin had stopped at any store that evening. He also said that neither he nor his brother used their skateboards as weapons or to protect themselves from police, according to Claridge’s report.

In his report, Claridge wrote that he and Elkins went to Harborview on May 27 to interview Chaplin. Chaplin initially agreed to an interview and said that he didn’t remember much about the incident.

Claridge wrote that as he began to ask questions, he was interrupted by Wayne Chipo, who identified himself as Chaplin’s father. Chipo said Chaplin shouldn’t answer any questions without an attorney present.

Antonio Harry, Olympia resident

From transcripts of a recorded interview

Antonio Harry, 40, told investigators that Andre Thompson, Chaplin and their mother live in a home with him, his girlfriend Jasmine Thompson and Jasmine Thompson’s children. Both Andre Thompson and Chaplin had been at home when Harry and Jasmine Thompson left for Capital Medical Center between 10 and 10:30 p.m.

Harry told investigators he was driving Jasmine home from the hospital when they witnessed the incident.

He said that as he drove down Cooper Point Road toward their house, he saw police cars ahead with their lights on. Harry said he noticed a police car pulled over to the side of the road and an officer standing with his gun pointed at a man wearing a white shirt.

“The gentleman was coming toward (the officer),” Harry said. “Not in a fast pace, like a slow pace like he was following orders.”

Harry said the officer was holding the gun with two hands and appeared to have “full control.”

A few seconds after passing the officer, he heard two shots. He said he heard yelling, and a short time later he heard another three shots.

“And we rushed home and was hoping it wasn’t my brother-in-law and wishing they was in the house sleeping,” Harry said.

He said that when they arrived home, he and Jasmine Thompson saw that Chaplin and Andre Thompson weren’t home. They went back to the scene and talked to someone he believed was a campus police officer.

“They (Thompson and Chaplin) rarely go out at — I’d say they stay in at that time,” Harry said. “There’s really nothing to do out here. They might go to the skate park or something like that. ... The worst scenario for them is skateboarding where they’re not supposed to be or on someone’s party.”

He said that he didn’t believe that Chaplin and Andre Thompson used drugs besides marijuana, but that he had seen them intoxicated before. He also said that he had recently bailed Chaplin out of jail after he was arrested for driving under the influence in Lewis County.

“So I have to literally wake up, make sure he’s in his room, (say) listen did you call your bondsman? Did you make your court date?” Harry said. “… He just does dumb teenage things.”

He told investigators he couldn’t imagine Chaplin and Andre Thompson stealing from Safeway.

“I never see them, you know, doing something that crazy and getting that far from Safeway being chased,” Harry said. “It just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t fit their character.”

Jasmine Thompson, Olympia resident

From transcripts of recorded interview

Jasmine Thompson, 30, told investigators that she had visited the emergency room at Capital Medical Center that night after sustaining a concussion at work. She said that her roommate, Antonio Harry, was driving her home when she noticed a police officer standing by the side of Cooper Point Road with his gun and flashlight drawn.

She said she heard three shots and saw a boy standing on the street about 20 feet from the officer. She saw the officer fire his gun three more times, she said, and the boy dropped to the ground.

She said she didn’t see anyone else at the scene.

“I’m like dang, poor guy,” Jasmine Thompson said. “... I was like, maybe he was scary on drugs, you know. Maybe they were scared ’cause he was on drugs.”

Jasmine Thompson said she and Harry continued home.

The interview ended when an unknown person in the background interrupted.

“Stop right now, until we see a lawyer,” the person said. “No more talking. That’s it, we’re done. No more. ... Leave us alone. I want to see my son. That’s what I want to do right now. … We’re done talking to the police.”

Lacey Sgt. Terence Brimmer and Thurston County Lt. Cliff Ziesemer conducted an untaped follow-up interview with Jasmine Thompson at the hospital. During that interview, she said again that she had witnessed the shooting while Antonio Harry was driving her home from Capital Medical Center.

Jasmine Thompson said she hadn’t been feeling well, and was lying down in the car. She said that she sat up when she heard two shots and saw one person on the ground and another walking toward him. She said she heard yelling but couldn’t make out what was being said. She and Harry went home, according to Claridge’s report.

Luke O’Brien, Olympia Police Department

From transcripts of recorded interview

Officer Luke O’Brien said that he and Officer Paul Evers, whom he had been assigned to for training, responded to what sounded like a robbery call at Safeway. The reporting party, a Safeway employee, told them that two African American men had taken something from the store earlier that night, then came back.

O’Brien said the employee told them that she had been standing at the front of the store and asked the men to stop. They threw a case of beer and left, she said. O’Brien and Evers took her statement and said they would come back the next day to collect security footage.

O’Brien said they were heading east on Harrison Avenue when they heard Donald say that he had located two suspects with skateboards. They made a U-turn and headed back toward Cooper Point Road.

“That’s when we heard ‘shots fired’ over the radio,” O’Brien said. “So we ran code.”

O’Brien said he heard Donald say on the radio that he thought the suspects had entered the woods west of Cooper Point Road. They drove past Donald, and saw him standing on the side of the road with his flashlight out.

O’Brien said that he and Evers turned left on 14th Avenue and parked, then entered the woods to try to contain the suspects.

“That’s when … we heard shots fired,” O’Brien said. “He was saying can we get some additional (officers) and I was booking through the woods. It was way thicker than I initially thought it was going to be. ... So by the time I made it back to Cooper Point through the woods, I wasn’t sure how far behind me Officer Evers was, I saw both suspects were already down in the road.”

O’Brien said he walked over to one of the men, later identified as Bryson Chaplin, and lifted up his sweatshirt.

“I saw one (wound) right above his nipple,” he said. “... I saw two in the back, two holes in the back. I was looking for exit wounds or entry. I couldn’t tell, you know, which ones they were. So we were trying to apply pressure to those.”

He said he was relieved by Officer Kimberly Sieg and remained at the scene with firefighters until they left.

Ittika Frazier, Olympia Resident

From transcripts of recorded interview

Ittika Frazier, 19, said her bedroom faces Cooper Point Road, and she and a friend could see the road from her window. She heard yelling and what sounded like the jingling of keys. She said she heard someone yell, “Police! Stop! Police! Stop!” and then three shots.

She said she then heard another voice saying a string of curse words and saw a flashlight shining around.

After another round of gunshots, she and her friend moved into a room across the hall. Frazier said she heard another series of gunshots, then the sound of glass breaking.

When she went back into her room, the window was broken, she said, and there was glass on the floor by her bed.

Sgt. Matt Renschler, Olympia Police Department

From transcripts of recorded interview

Sgt. Matt Renschler, 39, told investigators he was the patrol supervisor working the graveyard shift that night. He said he responded to the initial Safeway call to help search for suspects.

He was getting ready to head back toward downtown Olympia when he heard Donald say that he had found some possible suspects matching the provided description. A short time later, he heard Donald say that shots had been fired and that the suspects had headed into the woods.

“At one point he said, ‘Can I get more units please?’” Renschler said. “I think he was concerned nobody was coming. And I said something to the effect (of), ‘You got a lot of people coming.’”

Renschler said that at that point he wasn’t entirely sure where Donald was, whether there were other people in the woods and what exactly was happening.

He drove down Cooper Point Road until he found Donald’s car. He parked, grabbed his rifle and walked toward Donald.

“I saw two suspects on the ground, both in the roadway,” Renschler said. “... Once it was clear that we had the two suspects, I asked the medics to roll right up.”

He said that after the suspects were secured and aid arrived, he took Donald aside and asked if he was OK. Donald said he was.

Renschler said he paired Donald up with Officer Paul Evers, the police guild president.

“Even though I knew Paul (Evers) knew, I said (to Donald) … don’t change any clothes, don’t touch anything, don’t get in your car, don’t do this, don’t do that, stay with Paul,” Renschler said. “And then they remained at the scene for quite a bit until we decided it was OK to let him go back to the station.”

Renschler said Evers transported Donald to the station.

Kimberly Sieg, Olympia Police Department

From transcripts of a recorded interview

Officer Kimberly Sieg, 38, told detectives that when she arrived at the scene, Renschler assigned her and O’Brien to one of the victims, identified as Bryson Chaplin.

“We located what looked like two wounds in his back ... and found an exit point on his chest,” she said. “He was conscious and breathing.”

She said she took some photos of the scene, including of Chaplin and his wounds. She remained with him at the scene while medics treated him, but she said Chaplin never made any kind of statement about what had happened.

“His breathing was extremely labored, and he was in a lot of pain,” Sieg said. “So I just tried to make sure he could hear my voice. And the most I would get from him is yes ma’am.”

Sieg said she followed the ambulance carrying Chaplin to Providence St. Peter Hospital, where she eventually was relieved of her duties.

Paul Frailey, Olympia Police Department

From transcripts of recorded interview

Officer Paul Frailey, 26, said that he and Officer Javier Sola had been assigned to the downtown foot patrol and heard the call about the Safeway incident on the scanner. He said that he and Sola responded after hearing on the radio that shots had been fired.

When they reached the scene, several police vehicles already were there.

“I saw one of the subjects in the middle of the road rolling around, so I moved toward him to secure him and check for injuries,” Frailey said.

He said he found one bullet wound in the man’s stomach, but didn’t see an exit wound. The man was identified as Andre Thompson.

Frailey said he rode with Thompson to Providence St. Peter Hospital in an ambulance. He said he didn’t ask any questions about what had happened, he just wanted to keep Thompson talking and awake.

“He seemed a little bit intoxicated,” Frailey said. “I could smell alcohol, and it was, speech was slurred a little bit. But he was friendly and cooperative and engaging.”

When they arrived at St. Peter, Thompson was taken into a room where his bandages were changed, and he was given pain medication.

He was then transported to Tacoma General Hospital, where doctors performed surgery.

Frailey eventually was relieved by another officer and left the hospital.

Amelia Dickson: 360-754-5445

adickson@theolympian.com

@Amelia_Oly

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