VANCOUVER, Wash. — The team of independent investigators looking into the death of Kevin Peterson Jr., a Black man from Camas shot and killed by Clark County deputies on Oct. 29, released a video summary of the incident on Wednesday.
The video makes no mention of Peterson firing a gun at deputies, which has been a point of debate since his death. But the video does show Peterson pointing something at deputies after he was shot, which investigators label in the video as a handgun.
The independent investigators also report that deputies said they believed Peterson "posed a lethal threat" to them and other officers and that they believed he had returned fire at them. According to a news release that accompanied the video, shortly after the shooting one deputy said over radio at the time of the shooting that Peterson "may have fired a couple shots" in the direction of the deputies.
As reported earlier this month, the independent investigation team found no evidence to suggest Peterson fired at officers before he was shot and killed.
The shooting occurred around 6 p.m. in the parking lot of a U.S. Bank in Hazel Dell. The involved deputies fired 34 rounds, investigators reported Wednesday, four of which hit Peterson.
The investigative team said there were two rounds of gunfire. The first happened after deputies say Peterson pulled a handgun out of his pocket, ran toward officers and pointed his gun at them, something the video describes with text graphics but does not show. The second happened after Peterson had been shot and fell to the ground. Deputies told investigators that he sat up and pointed his gun at them, which they say the video shows.
The video summary produced by the independent investigation team used surveillance video from area businesses, drone video, dispatch audio recordings and interviews with the involved deputies and witnesses. The involved deputies did not have body cameras or cameras on their vehicles.
Warning: The video contains graphic content
The incident began when detectives with the Clark County Regional Drug Task Force planned to take Peterson into custody for attempted delivery of a controlled substance (Xanax). Before the operation, detectives obtained a picture of Peterson with comments and graphics that suggested "violence toward law enforcement," independent investigators reported.
When deputies first contacted Peterson, he fled the scene. Deputies told investigators he dropped a handgun and ignored orders from deputies to leave it behind, instead picking up the handgun and continuing to run away.
As Peterson ran through the U.S. Bank parking lot, deputies said they told Peterson to drop the gun, orders which witnesses told investigators they heard. Peterson didn’t drop the gun and ran back in the direction of containment officers. Deputies told investigators that as he ran, Peterson pointed his gun at them. The video released by the team of independent investigators does not show Peterson pointing a gun at this time.
That's when the deputies first fired at Peterson. After he was shot, he fell to the ground and deputies told investigators he sat up and pointed his gun at them. In the video, Peterson can be seen pointing something at deputies, which the investigators label as a handgun. That's when deputies fired for the second time.
The case was investigated by the Lower Columbia Major Crimes Team and the Southwest Washington Independent Investigations Response Team. The case file is now being sent to the prosecuting attorney for review. It will be handled by the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office, per the request of Clark County prosecutors. Lab reports and the medical examiner’s report are still pending and will be submitted as supplemental reports once they’re received.
At the request of Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik, this case will be reviewed by the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office.
In a press release from the City of Battle Ground, the independent investigation team outlined what it has learned about the incident.
KGW on Wednesday morning reached out to family of Kevin Peterson, Jr., including his father and girlfriend. The family is being represented by nationally renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who has represented families of multiple Black men and women killed by law enforcement, including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
Last week, Crump released a statement on the shooting, as well as the investigation into it:
“The tragic killing of Kevin Peterson Jr. underscores the ongoing problem with law enforcement accountability and transparency in our country. After officers took his life, they proceeded to cover up what actually transpired - lying to both Kevin’s family and to the public they swore to protect and serve.
“When law enforcement officials distort facts and attempt to cover up their behavior or that of their “brothers in blue,” they widen the gap of trust in Black communities. That visceral distrust makes people of color run and hide for their lives at the sight of police.
“We will seek justice for Kevin and his family and for the residents of Clark County who were lied to by police. We demand full and complete transparency from Clark County officials and any other entities involved in the investigation of his killing."