VANCOUVER, Wash. — The Clark County deputies who shot and killed Kevin Peterson Jr. last fall were justified and will not be charged, the Pierce County prosecuting attorney announced Monday.
Deputies shot Peterson, 21, during a failed drug sting in October 2020. Peterson's death prompted vigils and protests last fall.
The Pierce County prosecutor, who was in charge of the independent investigation, said the shooting was "justified and lawful."
"It is tragic that Mr. Peterson lost his life. But he made the regrettable decision to distribute drugs and, in the course of felony drug dealing, threaten to shoot the police. He took the gun with him when he unlawfully fled from the Mercedes, he retrieved it after dropping it despite commands to leave it where it was, and he pointed it at the containment officers who met him at the U.S. Bank. There was no legal requirement for the officers to allow Mr. Peterson to fire first before defending themselves," Pierce County Prosecutor Mary Robnett wrote in a letter to the Clark County prosecuting attorney.
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“We are shocked an officer gets to shoot Kevin in the back because he’s tired of chasing him. And now the two officers who shot at Kevin while he was running are both back at work. This is unfair and unsafe for everyone in the community," Peterson's family said in a statement.
According to court documents, three Clark County deputies shot Peterson on Oct. 29, 2020, after a drug sale of 50 Xanax pills to an informant at the Quality Inn in Hazel Dell. Peterson died after being struck four times.
The day after the shooting, Sheriff Chuck Atkins said Peterson fired a gun during his interaction with police. Almost two weeks later, a team of independent investigators said they determined Peterson actually never fired a gun, but that he had one on him.
“Our laws do not allow an officer to shoot a suspect for running away. In his own interview, Deputy Anderson admits he shot Kevin because he wasn’t obeying commands and wouldn’t stop running. The deputy says, ‘I kinda just drew the line in the sand … I’ve given suspect enough commands. If he takes another step, I’m gonna shoot him.’ I’m confident justice will prevail in the family’s civil suit against the county," the family's attorney, Mark Lindquist, said in a statement.