Posted October 7, 2015 by Cooper Point Journal in News

OPD Clears Officer Ryan Donald

Activists Look at What’s Next

By Felix Chrome

On Wednesday, September 30, the Olympia Police Department (OPD) released a statement that exonerating Police Officer Ryan Donald in the shooting of two unarmed men, brothers Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin.

According to their report, “no policies had been violated by Officer Ryan Donald during this incident.  Chief Roberts reviewed the Board’s decision and concurred.”

This came two weeks after the announcement that Ryan Donald would not face any criminal charges. This decision was released after of months of investigation by the Thurston County Critical Incident Team, who passed their findings along to the Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim.

Tunheim chose not to prosecute Officer Donald, but is charging Thompson and Chaplin with Assault. Donald reported that Chaplin threatened him with a skateboard and he feared for his life. In his report, Tunheim said the skateboard was being used as a deadly weapon under the definition in Washington Law.

The brothers had their first court date on September 22, where they both plead not guilty to all charges. Their trial is scheduled to take place the week of December 14.

The internal investigation into the incident began after the decision on criminal charges to determine if Donald would face any administrative discipline.

The review board consisted of OPD Deputy Chief Steve Nelson, OPD Lieutenant Aaron Jelcick, Deputy City Attorney Darren Nienaber, OPD Officer Jason Winner, and the Executive Director for the Commission of African American Affairs Edward Prince. The board was charged with answering: “Did the force used by Officer Donald adhere to the policies of the Olympia Police Department? Did the actions of Officer Donald precipitate the course of events that ultimately led to the use(s) of force? If so, were those actions reasonable and appropriate?”

The board unanimously decided that Officer Ryan Donald had not violated any policies or behaved incorrectly. Despite the many protesters and community members demanding Officer Donald be fired, he will be returning to work at the Olympia Police Department after being on leave for the duration of the investigation.

Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts announced the decision and released a statement saying “Although the review process is complete, our conversations about this incident—our conversations about our police department and our community–are very important to us and will be on-going for some time to come.”

Many are disappointed with this decision, and some have called for Washington State Governor Jay Inslee to become involved. At a press conference Thursday October 1, Inslee was asked if he was considering appointing a special prosecutor, or asking the attorney general’s office to review the shooting incident, to which Gov. Inslee responded, “not at the moment, but I will be reviewing the law enforcement citizens commision that just reviewed the incident… as I understand it they concluded that the incident did not violate either the law or the police department’s protocols, so we’ll review that, see what their finding were before we make any further decisions.”

Gov. Inslee went on to say “We should not wait until an incident likes this takes place. We want to get ahead of the curve to make sure police officers get a good a training as possible to help them have the tools to avoid the necessity of violence,” shifting the topic to the recently increased budget for police training in Washington state.

The Governor’s Communications Director David Postman said that they were not commenting on the decision not to fire Officer Donald at this time and, like Gov. Inslee, indicated that they were further reviewing the situation.

The question of whether there will be a further investigation into the shooting by either the Department of Justice (DOJ) or State Attorneys remains open, as organizers and politicians seem to contemplate where this case will go from here.

On Monday, September 21, a small group of protesters descended on the capitol to demand that Governor Inslee request a DOJ Review. During this event a protester in attendance was able to speak with David Postman, The Governor’s Communication Director.

Lisa Hayes, a protester “closely connected with the organizers from several of the groups that have been active” asked to speak to someone in the Governor’s office, and Postman met her in the lobby to discuss her concerns. Postman later informed me that at this point he had been unaware of calls for a DOJ review, saying, “Nobody had made that request through our office, so she did.”

The DOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) is already reviewing a case in Pasco, Washington, where resident Antonio Zambrano-Montes was shot and killed by a police officer in February. This review came after a request from U.S. Attorney for the Easter District of Washington Michael C. Ormsby, not due to a request from the Governor’s office.

Hayes told me that when she spoke to Postman he indicated it was possible the DOJ was already considering looking into the shooting Olympia in conjunction with the Pasco case. She summarized their conversation saying, “Postman said he would be happy to inquire to see what the status currently was, and if they weren’t already looking at Oly, they would work with the Gov. Legal council to make connections with DOJ regarding Olympia specifically.”

Postman said he was still unaware if the DOJ was investigating the situation. He told me “I hope to get back to Lisa [Hayes] next week.” Continuing, “we had a good conversation, I appreciated hearing from her first hand about it. It was useful to me.”

Later that week Hayes spoke with Senior Police Advisor Sandy Mullins, where they further discussed the possibility of DOJ involvement, as well as the involvement of the Attorney General’s Office.

Hayes said the tone of the conversation seemed to her to imply that this was unlikely. “Coming out of the first meeting I felt confident we’d get some support.  Hanging up from the phone call with Sandy, I did not have that feeling,” said Hayes.

Sandy Mullins did not respond to our request for comment.

While activists are working to pursue these next steps, others who agree Officer Donald’s shooting of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin don’t support the request for DOJ involvement.

A group of anarchists released a critique of this demanding, saying, “Implicit in the call for a DoJ investigation is the assumption that this integral part of the federal police apparatus, which includes such stalwart opponents of racism as the FBI, can in some way ‘work for us.’ That OPD has erred, and the feds can put it back on the right path. To be frank, this is dangerously naïve. The DoJ and OPD are two organs of the same fundamentally racist, fundamentally authoritarian state.”