Almost two weeks after Clark County Sheriff’s Office deputies shot and killed him, investigators released new information Tuesday that Kevin Peterson Jr. may have never fired a gun at deputies.
The 21-year-old reportedly carried a .40-caliber handgun when a regional drug task force tried to arrest him on Oct. 29 for selling Xanax pills in the parking lot of a Quality Inn just north of Vancouver.
After a foot chase, he was shot and killed in the parking lot of a shuttered U.S. Bank branch. Multiple deputies fired at Peterson, but discrepancies quickly emerged over whether Peterson shot his gun.
Investigators said Tuesday they have no evidence he did.
“At this time, detectives do not have evidence that Peterson fired the handgun while in the U.S. Bank lot, based on involved deputy interviews,” investigators said in a press release. “Additionally, no .40 caliber casings were recovered at the scene.”
The revelation was part of a lengthy press release from the investigative team, led by the Lower Columbia Major Crimes Team in Cowlitz County.
While many of the new details had been previously reported, after OPB first reported on court filings showing detectives seeking to search Peterson’s car, the release does offer some more information.
Detectives Jeremy Brown and Robert Anderson were identified as members of the drug task force who shot Peterson, as was Deputy Jonathan Feller. Investigators say each one has worked in law enforcement for more than a decade.
After separate drug task force members at the Xanax sale blocked Peterson’s car, he fled on foot, investigators said. He dropped a handgun, and detectives ordered him not to pick it up, they said. He did and ran into a forested area on the south side of the hotel.
“Detectives did not pursue further due to Peterson being armed and advised other units by radio that Peterson was armed with a handgun,” investigators said.
The path took him to the parking lot of the shuttered U.S. Bank branch, where he reportedly encountered more deputies. He carried a cellphone. They told him to stop, investigators said, but Peterson “did not comply with commands.”
Peterson then turned north and reportedly took a handgun out of his sweatshirt pocket. As he walked in the other direction, Anderson shot.
“Deputy Anderson told investigators he believed Peterson was a threat to the public and to the containment units coming in front the north,” investigators said.
According to the release, Peterson fell to the ground, sat up and pointed a gun. Investigators said the action was caught on a surveillance camera at the bank. Deputies said they believed Peterson aimed at Brown, then the officers fired again.
It’s unclear how many shots deputies fired at Peterson. In the search warrant affidavit, police said at least one witness heard a “volley” of shots. Marc Langlois, a spokesman for the investigation, told OPB he couldn’t say how many shots were fired.
“This is part of the ongoing investigation and I am unable to release that information at this time,” he said. “I do not have a timeline for that.”
Citing the fact that Peterson was armed, deputies called for a shield before giving him first aid. Investigators said that took five minutes.
Peterson died shortly before 6 p.m. His death immediately sparked protests in Vancouver against police brutality, echoing similar protests across the nation this year.
The findings seem to contradict initial statements about whether Peterson opened fire. In the court filings, detectives laid out circumstantial evidence but stopped short of saying he shot.
The warrant said “police radio traffic … stated that Mr. Peterson had fired two rounds,” and that a witness “heard two gunshots that sounded different, before a volley of shots which sounded the same.” According to the warrant, Peterson’s handgun, a Glock model 23, had two fewer bullets than a full magazine. Police clarified Tuesday that only one bullet was missing from the magazine. They said a second round was chambered in the gun.
Likewise, in a rare press conference the day after Peterson’s death, Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins told media that Peterson “reportedly” shot at police. But independent investigators did not include that detail in subsequent statements.