CENTRALIA, Wash. -- A college professor in Centralia who testifies against police officers in excessive use of force cases believes a police shooting in Vancouver last Saturday was both excessive and reckless.
Gregory Gilbertson reviewed the video shot by a 14-year-old in a nearby car as Vancouver Police Officer Ken Suvada tried to arrest 23-year-old Dominic Tovar.
The video shows the officer shooting his gun five times through the back window of the car as Tovar backed up with the officer near the rear bumper.
“Unless he was pointing a weapon at the officer as he's backing out for example, which I, we don’t see any evidence of that. Or unless the officer has probable cause to believe this individual was armed with a weapon and menacing him with a weapon, even then with another person inside the car - supposedly an innocent bystander - I think this was just a reckless and unnecessary use of excessive force,” said Gilbertson.
Gilbertson is a criminal justice professor at Centralia College. He's also a former police officer and a current expert witness for defense attorneys.
He does not understand why the officer opened fire as Tovar backed up his car.
“Typically when you see police officers fire at a motor vehicle the motor vehicle is being used as a weapon against them. And it doesn’t appear that the driver - the driver is backing out so slowly - that it just doesn’t appear to me that the officer’s in any real danger,” he said.
Tovar served a year-and-a-half in prison for using and selling drugs in the Vancouver area. He was wanted for parole violation. Court records show he got out in March 2016 and began checking in with his parole officer and following the rules. But he stopped checking in back in December.
A spokesman for the Washington State Department of Corrections said an off-duty employee spotted Tovar in the parking lot and called Vancouver police to come arrest him.
State records show no pattern of violence with Tovar, only drug offenses, which is another reason the professor thinks the shooting is out of line.
“In my view, from looking at the video and from the information that we now know about the individual they were trying to apprehend, this seems to me to be an extraordinarily excessive use of deadly force in the totality of the circumstances this officer was encountering,” he said.
KGW has repeatedly asked Vancouver police for an interview to discuss the shooting. A spokeswoman declined, citing an ongoing investigation into the matter.